Saturday, December 17, 2005

Quick, Watson, The Game Is Afoot!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a famous British novelist. His prolific works include crime and science fiction, non-fiction, historical novels, romances, plays and poetry. Four novels and fifty-six detective stories featured the legendary sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, and his arch nemesis, professor Moriarty. The thrilling plots always thickened when Holmes turned to his trusted companion, Dr. John Watson, and said: "Quick, Watson, the game is afoot!" Today, we're witnessing a real-life enactment of a Conan Doyle crime novel with the indictment of I. Lewis Libby.

Irving Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney, was indicted on October 28, 2005. In a dramatic press conference, special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald outlined the charges. The five felony counts were: one for obstruction of justice; two for perjury and two for making false statements. Libby faces a maximum of 30 years in jail and a $1.25 million dollar fine.

Patrick J. Fitzgerald was born into a working-class Irish-Catholic family in Flatbush, Brooklyn. His father was a Manhattan doorman. He attended a Catholic grammar school and Regis Jesuit high school. He received degrees in economics and mathematics from Amherst college and a JD from Harvard law school. After practicing civil law, he became an assistant US attorney in New York City. He assisted in the prosecution of Mafia don, John Gotti. In 1994, he prosecuted the case against Sheikh Omar and eleven others for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In 1996, he served on a team of prosecutors investigating Osama bin Laden. And on October 24, 2001, he was confirmed by the senate for the post of US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Fitzgerald is known for his vigorous, impartial and largely leak-free investigations into corruption. This should come as no surprise. Since his December 2003 appointment as Special Counsel in the Valerie Plame affair, he's conducted the entire investigation before the grand jury in complete silence. Fitzgerald's secrecy was very unnerving to George Bush and his masters of deceit.

It's interesting to note none of the counts against "Scooter" Libby was directly related to the outing of Valerie Plame's name and CIA position. Instead, they're about lying to impede and mislead the grand jury. The scrupulous wording of the indictment indicates Fitzgerald understands the complex nature of this crime. Obviously, he felt the circumstantial evidence was insufficient to press criminal charges for the Plame leak. So, he settled for the next best thing: peeling the artichoke to get at the heart of the crime.

In order to expose the actual leaker, Fitzgerald chose an old prosecutor's tactic. He selected a secondary figure to go after first. "Scooter" Libby didn't commit the crime, but he probably knows who did. The very fact he lied repeatedly to the grand jury is strong evidence he knows where the bodies are buried. Further, it means he's confident he'll receive protection in the form of a presidential pardon. This gambit may backfire because the president's approval numbers are very low. And any presidential pardon in this case would expose Republican lawmakers to political retribution.

There's no sign Libby will turn state's evidence to plea bargain a lighter verdict (like John Dean did during Watergate). Unfortunately, his unbending loyalty may seal his fate. Libby is 55 years old. A 30-year sentence is equivalent to the death penalty. This puts him under enormous pressure to tell the truth. There's no guarantee he'll receive a pardon and presidents have been known to develop instant amnesia. He still has to testify in open trial. And any additional lies he tells will simply pile more perjury and contempt of court charges onto his sentence. Under these circumstances, it appears Libby has no choice. He either cooperates with Fitzgerald, without waiver protection, or he falls upon his sword.

In February 2004, acting attorney general James B. Comey delegated plenary authority to Fitzgerald. As special counsel, he's permitted to prosecute the Plame case with the full authority of the US attorney general's office. He'll need every ounce of that power because the Bush mob will fight him savagely to the bitter end. This case is about much more than determining who outed a CIA agent. Ultimately, it's about executive privilege and presidential abuse. The Plame case is directly related to the Iraq war and the lies George Bush told to start it. Bush's treasonous war crimes are so vast they make Watergate seem like a tea party.

The media are happy to give "Poppy" Bush a free pass regarding the sins of his son. This is patently ridiculous. If a parent accepts praise when a child does well, then that same parent should be blamed when the results are clearly disastrous. The press never tires from repeating Dubya's retort he receives his marching orders from a higher power, as if he ignores his natural father's advice. In 1991, Poppy Bush refused to send the troops on to Baghdad not because of some balance of power or humanitarian reason. He passed on this option because of uncertainty. It was unknown whether Saddam Hussein would use the chem/bio weapons we sold him, as a last resort. The risk of losing thousands of soldiers in a chem/bio massacre was too great. When a myriad inspections determined Iraq was defenseless, it set the stage for the second Iraq war. This hard evidence condemns Dubya's invasion and occupation of Iraq as a crime against humanity. Bush used the approval of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mohamed ElBaradei, to guarantee the safety of US troops when they invaded Iraq and mass murdered its citizenry. A greater crime is unimaginable. And there's ample reason to suggest Poppy Bush subscribed to this madness. As the Bush family head, it's impossible to believe Poppy Bush would let his son start a war without weighing the consequences to the family and submitting his explicit endorsement. The Plame case is just the tip of this evil iceberg.

In a court motion on November 15, 2005, Patrick Fitzgerald filed a request to empanel a second grand jury. Rumor has it he intends to indict Karl Rove for the Valerie Plame leak. BushRove responded with their own rumors. Vice president Dick Cheney hinted he may resign early next year with his position going to Condoleezza Rice. At about the same time, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld may be asked to resign. Democratic senator Joe Lieberman seems to be the replacement frontrunner. This may explain why Bush kissed Lieberman after his State of the Union Address last January. This means BushRove planned several fallback positions as early as a year ago. There's no definitive word yet who might fill Karl Rove's shoes.

This strategy is brilliant. With the above resignations, Bush could claim he cleaned house just before the mid-term congressional elections next year. With replacement of Rumsfeld with Lieberman, he could claim he was reaching out to the Democrats for help solving the Iraq problem. Lastly, the replacement of Cheney with Rice would serve as political insurance against impeachment, if the Democrats seized the majority in either house. This ploy is reminiscent of Poppy Bush tapping Dan Quayle for vice president. Poppy Bush chose Quayle purely for impeachment insurance against an investigation into his criminal activities during the Iran/contra affair. The story goes: If you impeach me, look who'll become president. Moreover, this replacement gimmick would allow Cheney to leave (or abruptly pass away, like CIA director Bill Casey) before a full accounting of his actions in the Plame affair took place.

Patrick Fitzgerald has a monumental task ahead of him. It appears this young, Elliot Ness-type investigator has the tools and temperament to carry the day. He's fearless in the face of raw political power. And his blue-collar Catholic roots and innate distaste of elite criminality will spur him on. America faces the greatest treat to its survival since the Civil war. Our fate lies in the firm hands of special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. Quick, Watson, the game is afoot!

Franklin L. Johnson

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mother Rosa And Minister Farrakhan

December 1, 2005, was the 50th anniversary of the seminal event which launched the Montgomery bus boycott and the career of a young preacher named Martin Luther King. Tales are legion as to what really happened that day, a half century ago. Despite the speculation, it was a simple case of Rosa Parks deciding she'd taken her fill of Jim Crow law. This little, humble woman chose to stand up to tyranny by sitting down and refusing to cede her seat on a public bus. As a result, she'll be remembered as the mother of the modern civil rights movement. Because she was arrested, Rosa Parks is still condemned as a common criminal in certain Confederate circles. Yet, history will reserve a place of high honor for her uncommon bravery.

Seldom noted is the fact Mrs. Parks was sitting in the black section when the commotion started. Segregation was the de jure custom in the South at that time. Riders were separated by a movable sign which hung on the back of a seat. The sign was positioned after the first four rows. Whites sat up front and blacks sat in the back. Four rows were usually enough for the front section because whites rarely rode the buses. If the rear section was full, blacks couldn't sit in the front, even when that section was empty. To enhance this racist roulette, black and white riders routinely shuffled the sign to secure more seats in their particular section of the bus.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks took the bus home after a hard day's work as a seamstress. She sat in a seat just behind the sign. Jim Crow law required a black person to cede the next available seat to a white passenger when the front section was full. Indeed, blacks had to vacate the entire row when a white person sat anywhere in it. Rosa wasn't looking to become a martyr for the cause that fateful evening, although she was the local NAACP secretary and had prepared to protest the unfair bus laws at some point in time. Nevertheless, this confrontation promptly became a burden and a blessing for Mrs. Parks.

Rosa was ready for trouble when the bus pulled up. She remembered the driver and his rudeness from a previous dispute. After paying her fare, she refused to walk around and board the bus via the back door. Sometimes, drivers would take off and leave you stranded. So, she got on and walked through the bus in order to avoid this risk.

After three stops, a white man got on and demanded a seat in her row. The other blacks moved meekly to the back. But when the driver ordered Mrs. Parks to leave her seat, she refused to do so. The driver summoned the police who quickly arrived and arrested her. On December 5, she was convicted of violating a city ordnance and behaving in a disorderly manner. She was fined $14.00. Legend has it she didn't get up because her feet were sore. She strongly denied this was the case. Actually, it was the overwhelming weight of racist insult and brutal injury which had pushed her to the breaking point. This ugly fact triggered her sober defiance. In effect, Mother Rosa was simply sick and tired of being sick and tired. The most compelling, unanswered questions about this incident are: Where were the men (any men) and why didn't they come to her assistance?

On October 24, 2005, Rosa Parks died at home in Detroit. It was a peaceful passing for this most extraordinary woman. On November 3, she was lain in state at the US Capitol Rotunda. This rare tribute is reserved mostly for American presidents. Mrs. Parks was the first woman and only the second black person in US history to be so acclaimed. The first African American to lie in honor wasn't Dr. King. It was Jacob J. Chestnut, one of two Capitol police officers who were fatally shot in 1998.

On Wednesday, November 2, the Rosa Parks Memorial Service was held at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan. Black political and religious leaders begged for spots on the eulogy short list. Dignitaries in attendance included John Conyers, a very close friend of Rosa Parks. She worked as a receptionist and a staff assistant for him from 1965 to 1988.

Every eulogy was expressed with deep compassion and inspiration. Rev. Al Sharpton was especially eloquent. He's matured into one of the great extemporary speakers in America today. However, the best encomium was probably given by a surprise guest to the proceedings.

After a short break, Minister Louis Farrakhan appeared unannounced at the microphone. First, he patiently waited for the audience to acknowledge his presence. Then, he basked in the thunderous applause. After delivering the usual platitudes, Farrakhan calmly delivered his memorial to Mother Rosa. He began by stating he never knew Rosa Parks personally. This was a striking statement because most of the speakers there had at least a casual acquaintance with her. He said, although he didn't know Rosa Parks from the outside in, he did know her from the inside out. Again, this was a striking statement, insinuating he had a deeper understanding of her than the other guests.

Farrakhan said Mother Rosa denied herself a comfortable life in order to take up the cause of justice. That's not completely true. She lost her seamstress job due to the bus incident. Then, no one would hire her because of the ensuing boycott. She didn't volunteer to become persona non grata. Her opportunities improved only when she and her husband moved to Detroit in 1957.

After hitting his stride with the audience, Farrakhan started to articulate the points of interest he'd come to make. He said he was deeply concerned about the so-called war for civilization and democracy being fought in the Middle East. He indicated it shouldn't make a difference whether one worships as a Christian, Muslim or Jew because we're all brothers and sisters in faith. All three religions have the same prophets and principles. Therefore, holy wars should be seen for the useless adventures they are.

Farrakhan deftly brought the war back home. He said a crisis of the spirit is what ails America. Further, he said the turmoil is based almost exclusively on hypocrisy. Without naming names, he lambasted those who betrayed the weak and poor by consorting too closely with oppressors. This was a slap at the ministers who accept forty pieces of silver from Bush's Faith Based Initiative. Farrakhan strongly believes Bush delivers these devil dollars to buy political silence. And he's absolutely correct.

He concluded by saying we must be defiant in the face of poverty, injustice and religious hypocrisy. He said we must become more than Christians, Muslims and Jews in name only. He stated we must profess and act upon a faith we truly believe in and accept that salvation can be achieved only through faith and hard work. Then, he offered his Rosa Resolution: " die a stronger person than when I die in the die on my die in the name of the Lord." This was truly an inspired speech ( As he left the stage, the ovation was deafening.

Minister Farrakhan may have more in common with Mother Rosa than all the other ministers at that event combined. Like Rosa Parks, he's defiant in the face of the blatant racism in America today. He doesn't mince words about what troubles our nation and he's clearly a leader who can't be bribed. Nation of Islam followers don't smoke, drink or do drugs. They form close family units and work hard to maintain them. They're always clean cut and cheerful. And they stress self-respect and independence. Most important, they praise God for the gifts they receive in this life, while doing good deeds to prepare the way to the next one. It's so interesting how hypocritical whites, blacks and Jews hate this man, although he's the one with the best track record of doing positive things to improve the lives of American blacks.

Great prophets and oracles throughout history have never been welcome. This is because they have a tendency to point out hypocrisy and weakness whenever they encounter it. This makes people very uncomfortable, especially rulers. Holy men and women usually meet with untimely deaths because faith and truth are more important to them than their very own lives. So, rulers look for any excuse to terminate these diviners with extreme prejudice. Mother Rosa and minister Farrakhan are two of a kind. They're defiant to the end. We should emulate those who dare to do good deeds, rather than wasting precious time spewing falsehoods.

There was only one problem with Farrakhan's thoughtful eulogy: Wood and nails shouldn't be used to build engines for execution, rather they should be used to build warm homes and fine schools.

Franklin L. Johnson