Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Federal Prosecutors Gone Wild!

Thursday, August 26th, 2010
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The score right now stands at former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich 23, federal prosecutors 1. The feds charged Blagojevich with everything but the kitchen sink, including shaking down a children’s hospital and selling the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by President Obama. With twenty-four felony counts against him, and after all the melodrama and hype by the prosecutors, he was convicted of the least serious change, and that could well be thrown out on appeal. So what do we have here -- prosecutors gone wild?

A number of newspapers are sharply criticizing lead prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, editorializing that this grandstanding justice department lawyer was on a personal vendetta to bolster his own overblown ego. From day one, Fitzgerald has been “over the top” with his prejudicial pubic statements about the case.

When Blagojevich was first charged, Fitzgerald arranged to have the sitting governor arrested before dawn, like some thug accused of violent crimes, ready to blow town at a moment’s notice. At his grandstanding press conference, the U.S. Attorney spoke of “what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree,” accusing Blagojevich “of the most appalling conduct” that would have “Lincoln rollover in his grave… It was a truly new low,” Fitzgerald told the nation.

Blagojevich’s single conviction was based on a statement that he made to the FBI about everyone who contributed to him, and how much was given. Blagojevich said he tried “to keep a firewall between politics and government.” Basically, he gave a stock denial to any crime. So federal agents asked him if he broke the law -- and just like any child who is caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he said “no.” By saying ” I’m innocent; I didn’t do it,” an accused becomes guilty of making a false statement. What happened to one’s Fifth Amendment right to protest one’s innocence?

You could do so in good faith before Supreme Court Justice Scalia took dead aim at the issue. He challenged a defendant’s right to declare that the charges are false, which most assumed was a basic presumption under the constitution. Before 1998, saying “I didn’t do it” was a denial under the Fifth Amendment that prohibited prosecutors from piling on charge after change of false statements, regardless of whether a crime even took place. Then Scalia turned loose in the case of Brogan v. United States, tongue lashing the defendant’s attorney by saying in effect: “Either answer the FBI agent’s question or say absolutely nothing.”

So now, without the “exculpatory no,” prosecutors routinely pile on charges that, in effect, add five years to every sentence. Simply by saying “no” to the question of whether you did it can send you to jail even if it is proven that you are innocent of the crimes themselves. Sounds absurd? It happens all the time. So without Scalia’s decision in the Brogan case, the Governor would not have been convicted of the one false statement charge.

Respected New Orleans columnist and television commenter Clancy Dubois summed up one’s option this way. “If you are a public official in Louisiana, do not talk to the FBI. Not under any circumstances. Not even if you are innocent and have nothing to hide. Especially if you are innocent and have nothing to hide.” Many share his conclusion. Being innocent is irrelevant when answering questions from the FBI. Simply being questioned by the FBI puts the suspect or even THE INNOCENT WITNESS IN PERIL. Even if you know nothing of, never heard of the ALLEGED CRIME, and honestly tell them so, the FBI can say you are lying, and you can get sent jail -- and the citizen has no recourse!

Let’s be clear. Governor Blagojevich is far from being a saintly victim of a prosecutor’s wrath. In my opinion, Blagojevich is an egotistical, narcissistic, blowhard who doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. The day after his one count conviction, Blagojevich compared himself to a superhero at the Chicago Comic Book Convention, and sold his autograph and photo for $80.

The guy has no shame. And he shoots his mouth off a lot, lacing his private conversations with numerous expletives. He is certainly not alone among politicians in being profane. But nothing specific was laid out, no bribe offers, no plans; the guy was simply talking. Is there a crime here? Even so, is it a federal crime? If being a blowhard politician who exaggerates, and make false promises is a crime, we’d better loosen parole requirements and let thousands of convicts go free to empty up cell space to accommodate blowhards. Hmm, should that include blowhard Fitzgerald?
As the federal government continues its propensity to make any number of acts on the local level federal crimes, it diminishes its role as a model of fairness and justice. In this sense, it has become a travesty of the principles on which this country was founded.

More specifically, blowhard Fitzgerald’s self-serving shoot first and think later tactics have diminished his effectiveness at serving the people, which, of course, is what he took an oath to do.

Does he retry Blagojevich? A number of national newspapers are saying no. The Washington Post editorialized: “Fitzgerald brought unlimited resources and the power of the federal government to the case. He is entitled to drag the ex-governor back into court. But the prosecutor took his shot and lost. He should stand down before crossing another fine line -- the one that separates prosecution from persecution.”

The Wall Street Journal went even farther calling for Fitzgerald to be fired. “Fitzgerald is a willful prosecutor who throws an exaggerated book at unpopular defendants and hopes at least one of the charges will stick, even as he flouts due process and the presumption of innocence when the political winds are high. If Mr. Fitzgerald doesn’t resign of his own accord, the Justice Department should remove him -- especially after such other recent examples of prosecutorial bad faith.”

Fitzgerald purposely violated prosecutorial ethics by making inflammatory statements, and by selectively releasing material that made Blagojevich look bad without presenting the whole picture. Just as Michael Nifong, the infamous prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse Case was disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar because of his inflammatory remarks, Fitzgerald’s actions, and those of his Chicago staff should face the same scrutiny and the same possible sanctions.

The former Illinois governor is far from being a sympatric figure or one who engenders much public compassion. But perhaps the verdict in his case is a sign that jurors, for good reason, are becoming more willing and able to distinguish unbecoming and even venal politics from official corruption, fraud and obstruction. And here’s the good news. We are guaranteed at least another year of Blagojevich-o-rama. We get the hair, the goofy Elvis imitation, the defiance, the whole shebang. If the sequel is as dramatic as the original, I can hardly wait.


“Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor; that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than cases that need to be prosecuted.” Justice Robert Jackson

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at The show is televised at

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why all the Mosque Controversy?

Thursday, August 19th, 2010
New York City, New York


The political pyromaniacs are on the loose in the nation’s capitol, with both parties pandering to their respective bases. Neither democrats nor republicans could be accused of being “bathed in courage” on a litany of important national issues. Political demography is the sound bite of the day as shrill election rhetoric continues to mount.

Being a republican candidate this election season certainly is exhausting. These defenders of our American way of life are consumed by enemies galore, around the clock. As if Gays, socialists, Muslims, Arabs, and illegal immigrants were not enough, now they have to attend to the fear mongering over the Ground Zero mosque.
Except the proposed mosque and community center is not at ground Zero – it’s several blocks away and a few hundred feet from an existing mosque. Yes, there will be a place of worship, but also a swimming pool, basketball court, bookstore, fitness center, performing arts center, and a food court. Heaven help us, now our way of life is to be threatened by lamb kabobs and hummus!

There was no real concern expressed over the proposed Islamic cultural center when it was first proposed back in December of 2009. The New York Times published a story at that time quoting the project’s developer. "We want to push back against the extremists," said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Jewish leaders and a number of city officials, including the mayor's office, said they supported the idea, as did the mother of a man killed on 9/11. An FBI spokesman said the Imam, (the leader of the mosque), worked for the bureau for years.

Shortly after the Times story ran, conservative media personality Laura Ingraham interviewed Abdul Rauf's wife, Daisy Khan, while guest-hosting "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox. In hindsight, the segment is remarkable for its cordiality. "I can't find many people who really have a problem with it," Ingraham says of the mosque project, adding at the end of the interview, "I like what you're trying to do." This is the same Laura Ingraham who presently has a book listed as number two on the New York Times best sellers list called, “The Obama Diaries,” a blistering attack on the current administration.

Muslims have been praying inside the Pentagon since Sept. 11, but those opposing the Ground Zero mosque have been strangely silent. That’s right. Muslims have infiltrated the Pentagon for their nefarious, prayerful purposes – daring to practice their religion inside the building where 184 people died on Sept. 11, 2001. They haven't even had the sensitivity to move two blocks, let alone a mile, away from that sacred site.

As reported in the Washington Times, “Navy imam Chaplain Abuhena M. Saifulislam lifted his voice to God as he called to prayer more than 100 Department of Defense employees at a celebration of Ramadan at the Pentagon. God is most great, sang the lieutenant commander and Islamic leader, in Arabic, as iftar — the end of the daily fast – began. Uniformed military personnel, civilians and family members faced Mecca and knelt on adorned prayer rugs chanting their prayers in quiet invocation to Allah.

“In a ceremony following 9/11, Army Chaplain Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, the first Muslim chaplain to serve in the military, read a verse from the Koran at the memorial service at the Pentagon on a Thursday, exactly one month after the attack. Muhammad, who became a chaplain eight years ago and works at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, ministered to rescuers in front of the smoldering Pentagon after the attack.”

So Muslims can pray at the Pentagon, but not several blocks away from Ground Zero? Maybe it’s because most Americans, including virtually all of our politicians, see the Islamic world as a single confusing and troubling monolith. In the Christian world, we have no problem making distinctions. Just because someone is an Irish catholic living in New Orleans doesn’t mean he’s sympathetic to Irish Republican Army terrorists. Southern Baptists do not condone the murderers of abortion doctors.

But in America, we remain blind to the divisions and distinctions within Islam. There are 1.57 billion adherents to the Muslim faith around the globe, making up 23% of the world population. In the U.S., there are estimates of some 5 million Muslims. Yet American education rarely mentions this vast unknown population that many say is the fastest growing religion in the world as well as in the U.S. Without any basic knowledge, how can we determine friend or foe?

As far as the Ground Zero mosque, our politicians are falling all over themselves postulating that there should be no Muslim presence anywhere near this hallowed ground. In Louisiana’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, Incumbent David Vitter is demanding that the President reverse his support for building the mosque, while his opponent, Democrat Charlie Melancon, says that such a building “near Ground Zero isn’t appropriate.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich one ups both of them by declaring that building the mosque would be like putting a Nazi sign by a holocaust museum.

On one hand, there is a good audience for pandering as some two thirds of Americans are against the mosque. But we all have to deal with trifles like the 1st and 14th amendments. Legally, there is little wiggle room for the opposition. But does building such a center make good sense? Probably not. There is a difference between what any organization legally could do as compared to what they should do.

On the other, far from engendering good will and better understanding, Abdul Rauf and his fellow mosque supporters have started a firestorm that has rekindled animosity and distrust. While there may not be a logical foundation for such vehemence -- justified or not, it exists. To be tolerated, both sides, including mosque supporters must be sensitive to the wounds of 9/11 that have yet to heal.

In the current election season, one would think that the campaigns would focus on the economy, healthcare, Iraq, Afghanistan and who is best qualified to lead us. Instead, those who hope to lead are spending too much time exploiting the anger, self-righteous indignation and arrogance concerning the mosque placement at the expense of other very pressing issues.

British economist Josiah Stamp wrote: “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”

Too many elected officials are dodging the major issues facing this country today. Unfortunately, it is the rest of us who will suffer the consequences.

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at The show is televised at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

JNo Fair Shake for Stevens and O'Keefe!

Thursday, August 11th, 2010
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Former Senator Ted Stevens was able to weather a number of difficult challenges in his life, but the clock finally ran out on the 86 year old Alaskan. He had survived an earlier plane crash in his home state that caused the death of his wife back in 1972. And the federal government did its best (or maybe it’s worst) in trying to destroy his political career in a most unsavory way. But the southwestern Alaska Wilderness took its toll, and a second plane crash took his life on a rocky mountainside this week.

Four of the nine passengers on the plane survived. One of those who made it is the former Chancellor of LSU here in my hometown of Baton Rouge. I have known Sean O’Keefe and his family for more than 40 years, and it was a miracle that both he and his son Kevin survived the disaster. He is in critical condition in an Anchorage hospital, and you can imagine the deep interest and concern being expressed throughout my community.

Stevens was a giant in the U.S. senate, having served in that body for some 40 years. His pre senate service was exemplary, having graduated from Harvard law school, and he was awarded two distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals for his valiant service during World War II. Few members of congress today have any military background, and make up what those who have served call the “chicken hawk caucus.” He became a federal prosecutor, and was active in the effort to make Alaska the 50th state back in 1953.

He survived his first plane crash in 1978 in a twin-engine Leer jet when it crashed on a flight from the capital, Juneau, to the Anchorage Airport. Alaska has by far more air crashes than any other state. Many of us here in Louisiana still remember the loss of Louisiana congressman and House Majority leader Hale Boggs, who died in a 1972 plane crash along with Alaska Congressman Nick Begich. Ironically, Begich’s son defeated Stevens in a 2008 election that took place just days after Stevens was convicted of filing false financial reports with the Senate.

It was obvious to close observers of the case that the trial date was pushed by prosecutors so as to tip the balance of the close election. Stevens was defeated, but a few months later, guess what? The conviction was thrown out by the trial judge, who ordered an investigation of the handling of the case by the Justice Department. The judge summed up his conclusions of the Justice’s Department’s actions by saying: In nearly 25 years on the bench, I have never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct I have seen in this case.”

After Stevens was convicted, an FBI whistle blower came forward and charged that prosecutors intentionally presented false and misleading testimony and evidence, and withheld critical and exculpatory information from the defense. The key witness against Stevens gave a completely different statement to the FBI before the case went to trial that contradicted his trial testimony. But the prosecutors failed to turn over the statement, even though they were required to do so by law.

Steven’s conviction was thrown out, but the Feds got what they wanted in destroying his career. The Stevens case is one of many examples of why there should be no legal immunity for obvious acts of contempt and criminal abuse of the judicial process by federal prosecutors. If there is any doubt in your mind as to whether this kind of prosecutorial misconduct takes place regularly in the federal court system, I would urge you to read my book,” Justice Denied,” published by the Lisburn Press.

On a much happier note, it would seem to be a miracle that Sean O’Keefe and his son survived such a catastrophe. The floatplane involved in the crash was flying in heavy rain and unnoticed by radar. The plane hit the side of a mountain with such force that a 300 foot gash was torn into the rock wall, crushing the nose of the plane. The few like O’Keefe who survived sat severely injured inside the fuselage along with the dead for 12 hours until help arrived.

O’Keefe was a likeable but controversial chancellor at LSU during his tenure from 2005 until 2008. The O’Keefe family was a political dynasty in New Orleans for over 50 years dating back to his great-grandfather and former New Orleans Mayor Arthur O'Keefe. He had served as the Secretary of the Navy as well as the head of NASA. I thought he was an excellent choice when he was picked to head Louisiana’s flagship as Chancellor. LSU was massively underfunded, and still has one of the lowest endowments of any major university in America. He told me his mission was to make a dramatic push for more private sector funding, and he was well suited for the job.

Fundraising requires a lot of travel, and he received parochial criticism from within the university community for not being more hands on in the university’s day-to-day operations. His goal was to raise money and he was well on the way until the criticism mounted from within. He was convinced that a major endowment effort would attract better students and professors. But the internal politics and legislative meddling, always a yoke around the university, wore him down. He continues to profess his love for LSU, and the state is the loser for the loss of his presence.

As of now, it looks like Sean O’Keefe and son will survive. Here’s hoping he eventually comes back to Louisiana. Sen. Ted Stevens was not so fortunate. If the Justice Department had played fair and followed the rules of disclosure, Stevens would no doubt have been re-elected and back in congress that is meeting in Washington all this week. If the rules had been followed, if there had been no prosecutorial misconduct, if fairness had prevailed, if justice had not been denied, Ted Stevens would be alive today.
“It is just as well that justice is blind; she might not like some of the things done in her names if she could see them.” Anonymous

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at The show is televised at

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Thursday, August 5th, 2010
Redneck Country, Louisiana


I was at a book fair recently hawking some of my Lisburn Press publications, and was asked to comment on the nation’s immigration problem. One fellow apparently didn’t like my response. “Oh, I know all about you writers out there with your fancy English degrees. You think you have a lot more common sense then us rednecks.”

All right, I’ll admit it. I do live in a semi cosmopolitan city of Baton Rouge, received part of my education outside the U.S. and have traveled the world a good bit. But you can’t take the Ferriday redneck out of city folks like me. I have a pick up as well as an old SUV with 180,000 miles on it. They both have driven the back roads of north Louisiana on many occasions. I laugh at, and mostly agree with all the “you must be a redneck” jokes. (You must be a redneck if you know instinctively that red wine goes with possum.) And by the way, I have a great possum recipe coming out in my updated version of “Jim Brown’s World Famous Squirrel Stew and other Country Recipes.”

Anyone who came from the same southern country town that raised Jerry Lee Lewis and Rev. Jimmy Swaggart certainly qualifies as a card-carrying redneck. So assuming you accept my credentials, you might be surprised at my reaction to a bumper sticker I saw driving down a gravel road just past Frogmore, Louisiana. (That’s right. Frogmore -- about 15 minutes west of Ferriday if you check your map.) A truck ahead of me on the back windshield displayed the driver’s feelings in no uncertain terms: “You’re in America Now; Speak English or Get Out!”

Now I know it’s the political rage throughout the country to demand that English should be the official language. And quite frankly, I agree. That is, from the public perspective. I occasionally get a bit irritated when I’m told to “press one for English, two for Spanish” etc. If a U.S. governmental body insists on printing forms, giving tests, and processing governmental applications only in English, then that is how the process works.

Here is where states’ rights come in. If any state feels the need to offer services in another language, that should be their prerogative. In some areas of my home state of Louisiana, French is the only language spoken by older Cajuns. Grocery stores in some small south Louisiana communities put up daily specials in French, and the southern part of the state has a number of radio stations that carry French Cajun music. In the southeast corner of the state, a number of publications appear in Vietnamese to service the growing Asia community of immigrating fisherman.
But a strong “English Only” backlash is growing. In the current Alabama governor’s race, Republican candidate Tim James makes no bones about his pandering. His TV commercials cry out: “We speak English, so if you cannot speak English or refuse to speak English, get out of Alabama and our country.”

Here’s what widely circulated blogger Michael Murphy has to say about our language. “I find myself becoming more and more indigent over how some neighborhoods in this country look more like neighborhoods in other countrys. You want to go to a place that looks like China, I say go to China. This is America. Is it right that I can't go into a resturant on American soil without an encyclopedia? I mean, what the heck is rigatoni? I ordered it because their wasnt spagetty on the menu and they said it was like spagetty, but it wasnt. It was these strange tubes, so there liars too.

That’s right. This guy’s comments circulate the worldwide web. (The multiple spelling errors are his, not mine.) And hey, Michael, you don’t have to go to the orient to see what the world’s largest country looks like. Just check out the Chinatown sections of most major east and west coast cities in the U.S.

So what’s up with this sudden assault on the multicultural speak in the U.S? Take a look at Washington. The American job market has been annihilated, and unemployment still hangs today around 10%. We hear a lot about “trickle down.” The disastrous economic policies put in place by the Washington gang of congress and regulators that bailed out Wall Street, but dumped on Main Street, have now trickled down to the average Joe, who is fighting economically to keep his head above water.

So it is easy to understand why this same Joe blames his economic woes on the so-called “illegal” immigrants he sees working all around him. As columnist Mark Crovelli writes: “He sees foreigners mowing lawns all over town, cooking meals in virtually every restaurant he patronizes, and installing every roof in the neighborhood, and he reasons that his current plight is due primarily to the fact that these foreigners “steal” jobs that otherwise would be his for the taking. However, the biggest insult of all, to his mind, is the fact that these foreigners don’t have the courtesy to speak his language, and yet they still manage to find and steal jobs from English-speaking Americans like him!”

This opens a whole new can of worms as to why so many “legals” cannot compete, or will not compete against half literate immigrants who don’t speak English. When I drive around my home town of Baton Rouge, I see Latinos on their way to work cleaning my neighborhood houses, installing new roofs all over town, mowing yards, busing at many local restaurants, and maintaining local golf courses. Employers say they would rather hire American workers, but just cannot find willing labor. Many of these same employers are taking Spanish lessons so as to better communicate with their growing workforce.

The problem is not in my neighborhood, or my city, but in the nation’s capitol. Both Republicans and Democrats have continually dodged the challenge to find a comprehensive solution to the whole immigration mess that these same lawmakers allowed to take place. Congress (both parties) created a housing bubble that attracted millions of Latinos to enter the U.S. illegally, and go to work on the overheated and unsustainable housing market that was desperate for new workers. Paraphrasing Pogo, “We have found the problem, and the problem was created by those we sent to Washington.”

So, until congress finds the courage to have some backbone and face this immigration mess head on, the rest of the country has little choice but to stand by and wait, with the occasional quixotic jousting that we are observing in Arizona.
But what about “Speak English or Get Out?” Look, I’ll stay out of your face and you stay out of mine. Don’t tell me what language I can or cannot speak. I don’t need big brother telling me what to do. If I want to go around speaking any foreign language, that’s my right as an American. I will not voluntarily stand by and let my redneck friend or Big Brother set the parameters as to how I can or cannot communicate. When you tell me what language to speak, then you start down the path of telling me what I can speak, or whether I can even speak at all.

So to all my friends, redneck like me or otherwise, pick and choose your fights wisely. The problem is the overspending, money wasting, high taxing, and freedom limiting bureaucrats in Washington who lack the courage to set this country in the right direction with a little common sense. You up there! Take care of the economic chaos you created. And for goodness sake, leave me and poor Pedro alone.

“English? Who needs that? I’m never going to England!” Homer Simpson

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am central time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at