Thursday, November 27, 2008
That’s twenty-two million dollars. To sit on the bench. In street clothes.
It just has to be repeated to be believed. Even in this day and age of crazy salaries and crazier players and owners, it’s hard to fathom how anyone could get paid so much for doing so little.
The team that’s paying Marbury is the New York Knicks, a franchise that has fallen so far into the abyss of bad, that even the Los Angeles Clippers have a better reputation in the basketball world right now.
Marbury came to New York under different management amid hope that he might find a home in his home town. But if there’s anything we’ve learned about the guy they call Starbury, it’s that he has never been interested in anything but his own damn self.
I mean here is a guy who couldn’t find a way to play with Kevin Garnett. That’s how badly he wanted to be The Man. Everywhere he goes, he only reinforces his rep as a Cancer, no more so than this week when he has not once but twice refused to suit up for the Knicks who are short-handed because of cap-clearing trades and injuries.
It's been argued by some that Marbury has a legitimate beef with his bosses, who decided they didn't want him anymore and would rather he just take a buy out (a percentage of the money he's owed) and go away. This has been an ongoing saga since the middle of last season and every day the $22 million dollar man sits on the end of bench in long pants, has been one more day of the drama. Marbury has sat there quietly and yet ... well his just being there speaks volumes. Say the Knicks deserve what they get. The current owner was the owner when they acquired Marbury -- not like his ridiculous NBA max salary was a big ol' secret neither.
Marbury seems intent on walking away on his terms. Even if it costs him whatever shred of a decent rep he's got left. Seems to me a guy like Marbury who has spent 12 years in the NBA, who has never been near a championship, or ever been considered much of a team player, who has only so much left for pro ball, ought to have embraced this as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf.
It's not like it hasn't been done before. Think about it ... sports, politics, entertainment, they run on comebacks. It's our national pastime to embrace the bad guy/girl-turned-good story. As much as we seem to relish a good take down, it's the rise from the ashes we truly love. There is not a place in the world that roots harder and louder and with more passion for the underdog than this here U-nited States of America and the capital of comebacks is New York City. I mean pu-leaze, they wrote a damn song about it.
It's to Stephon Marbury's detriment that this is one lesson he has not yet learned.
Gotta be a difficult decision for any team to put a healthy guy on the pines. But GM Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D’Antoni, both in their first full seasons with the team, weren’t around when the Knicks traded for Marbury (getting him from D’Antoni’s Suns). He didn’t fit in then and never evolved from a look-to-score-first point guard with little appreciation for the limits of his abilities and no appreciable defensive abilities. As far as the new Knicks braintrust is concerned, he never really gave the Knicks any indication that he was figuring this out.
I had a chance to cover Marbury when he first came into the league. I knew his college coach from my days covering the ACC and he had always raved about his gifts, athletically and otherwise. But Marbury may be a classic example of a talent crowned way too early. He was such a star in his hometown of Brooklyn that he was called Starbury before he could shave. He grew up as Clyde Frazier might put it, trumping and thumping the expectations of the greats that had come before him. And he left college after just one season as the point guard for a good, but not even remotely great team, even though two of his teammates were future NBAers too.
Point guard is one of those positions in basketball that requires schooling. To be really good, it's not enough to just have the raw skills. Maybe you can't teach "feel" and reaction, but you can teach strategy and how to recognize defenses and understanding the subtlties of offense, knowing where your teammates are going before they do. LeBron James was annointed any number of ways before he even played one NBA game. That had wonderful instincts as a passer was not in question. But go back and watch his first year or two -- oh, he's wonderful to watch but more often than not, it's clear he has almost no idea what he's doing. He's just reacting. Fast forward to the present. The kid has totally upped his game. (Watch out, too. He's gonna get even better and it's going to be wicked fun to watch.)
Marbury has never really stayed in any situation long enough to learn how to be a true point guard. Plus, he bought into his own hype anyway and you would too if the world has been telling you how great you are since the day you dribbled a basketball. Sadly, he never realized that his talent was only going to take him this far and no farther.
Stephon Marbury is stuck. And he doesn't have a clue how he got here.
It's sad. He clearly loves to play basketball. He used to play it with such joy and his size and strength and speed -- he was the whole package. He’s done some good things for the community. As an interview, he was almost always forthright, helpful and polite. He seemed like he had a bright, active mind. But he doesn't appear to be thinking this through. How else do you explain a guy whose basketball life is dying an untimely death by his own hand and he doesn't even know it? You can’t even blame his agent – he doesn’t have one.
Maybe playing might not have saved him, but not playing hasn’t been the answer. If he shows he’s still got some game, he might have convinced a desperate GM to take a shot at him. Hell, Larry Brown hasn’t made a trade since he returned to coaching (his first coaching kid since a brutal and brief stint in New York coaching Marbury). The legendary roster flipper has got to be itching to make a deal, even for a guy he once rode like an evil step father.
But refusing to even suit up is just one more boldly dumb move by Marbury who seems unable to see how much the landscape has changed since he signed his NBA max deal. The Knicks have been overhauling their roster with an eye to a future that has never realistically involved Marbury. They have a slew of youngsters who need to play, players at the age where a well-respected coach like D’Antoni can mold to his system.
The goal of course is something much, much bigger – a reality Marbury seems blind to. The worst-kept secret in the sports world is that New York is gearing up for 2010 and what is expected to be best free-agent class, possibly in the history of the NBA. The way to get there is to stop what they were doing the past decade – acquiring relatively well-known quasi-stars with big, long-term salaries. The thinking was that these players were being dumped for financial reasons that had nothing to do with talent. To be sure, it was Isiah Thomas, as GM, and owner James Dolan -- perhaps the worst sports owner ever, a title for which you might be surprised has a lot of competition – who were the suckers, uh, I mean architects of this strategy.
Of course it failed. Miserably. All it got the Knicks was a roster of grossly overpaid, mismatched guys who they couldn’t give away. It’s now fallen on the new leadership, with Dolan thankfully remaining on the sidelines, to shed these contracts. The endgame is to get far enough under the cap to afford to make a legit run at James or Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh or a combination of two of the above.
Last week, Walsh engineered two deals that put them well ahead of schedule. The guys they traded had salaries beyond 2010 and are still relatively young, but Marbury’s money comes off the books after this season. If it wasn’t for that huge salary, he might be a hot commodity – perhaps for a team that needs a point guard for a late-season run or as a rental to fill in for an injury. But so far, there’s been no takers. Seriously, I wouldn’t want to add him to my rec league team at this point.
And if Walsh can’t get a decent draft pick or a couple guys with low or expiring contracts, there’s no reason to trade him. In a perfect world, a buy out helps both parties. But Marbury would rather be petulant.
Marbury has had a difficult year, for sure but most of it was his fault. After feuding with Brown, he fought with Thomas, who knows a thing or two about volatile, talented point guards who like to shoot. He tried to take Marbury under his wing but in the end, it was his decision to remove him from the starting lineup that doomed Marbury’s season last year. Shortly after he returned to the lineup, his father died during a game. Marbury took some time off, but perhaps came back too early, the tragedy still unresolved for him, as it would be for anyone facing that. The rest of the year was one long lost weekend.
And when the Knicks brought in Walsh who in turn kicked Thomas to the curb -- to the delight of Knicks fans everywhere -- and brought in D'Antoni, the window of opportunity for Marbury was going to be small. I don't know how hard he tried to fit into D'Antoni's run-and-gun system. I don't know how he was in practice or if he made an effort to fit in, especially at the realization that other, younger players were going to play in front of him. I know he came into camp in great shape and he sort of said the right things to the press, but apparently Walsh and D'Antoni didn't get the impression that there star was going to be okay as one of the anonymous boys at the end of the bench.
So they asked him to take a buy out. Negotiations continued and no deal materialized. And then they told him that he wasn't going to play and the season began and the Knicks were not as bad as everyone thought they'd be. And then, well, then the LeBron James fire sale began in earnest -- a lot earlier than expected.
During the past week, the Knicks made two separate trades, dealing (among others) the team's two leading scorers this season. And one player they received in return, guard Cutino Mobley, has yet to play because of a problem discovered on his routine physical. Another guard is hurt and with Mobley not in uniform yet, the Knicks found themselves undermanned. Marbury was asked to suit up. He said no.
After he skipped Tuesday night’s game against the Pistons, teammate Quintin Richardson was quoted as saying he felt that Marbury wasn't even part of the team anymore.
“I don’t consider him my teammate. He hasn’t played with us all year,” Richardson told the New York Times. “He didn’t want to play with us. I don’t look at him as a teammate because teammates don’t do that.”
Times columnist William Rhoden wrote one of the few recent columns that doesn't make Marbury out to be the bad guy. His point is valid to a point -- I think he glosses over Marbury's role in this whole drama -- if he was a good teammate in the first place, there wouldn't be any need for this silly melodrama.
Whatever is motivating Marbury, he seems bent on sticking it to Knicks management. I would argue that most Knicks fans would like to do the same thing, too, but it’s doubtful many of us would do it at such a cost to our own reputations. As hard as it is to believe one team could make so many bad moves in such a short period of time, buying out Marbury doesn’t seem like one of them. If Walsh and D’Antoni don’t think he’s committed to the team, than what choice do they have?
Sports is a business. You look out for yourself. We’ve all heard athletes repeat those mantras. But doesn’t looking out for yourself include owning your mistakes and demonstrating that whatever your personal goals may be, you believe in the brotherhood of team?
If Marbury has proven consistent at anything over his career, it’s that he’s only out for himself. He had a chance to repair some of that damage. Whether he got bad advice or he’s just mad doesn’t matter. He’s not going to win this war.
That doesn’t mean he’s not going to get his. Oh, he’s gonna get paid. It might even happen this week, as the Knicks seem ready to give into his petulance and pay him his $22 million dollars. I’m sure he’s going to see it as a victory.
But at what cost to his own soul?
Update (November 28, 2008): The Knicks announced Sunday that they have suspended Marbury for one game for refusing to play. The suspension carries a one-game fine -- which is just under $200,000 for those counting at home. Meanwhile, Marbury was quoted in the New York papers as saying he doesn't "trust" D'Antoni and that the whole situation is the fault of Knicks' management. The NBA Players Association said they would appeal the "baseless" action. The plot thickens.
Marbury during better days.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Our new pug, Chamuco, whose name means "Little Devil" is full of piss and vinegar and wants nothing more than to follow his big bro around the house except when he wants to "play". This means biting Louie's legs and neck and trying to get his dander up. More often than not, it becomes two pugs rolling around the carpet. This is what puppies do. But mature dogs don't always like it too much. Louie puts up with it mostly. Sometimes he hides under the table to get away from the devil.
But every once in awhile, he fights back. Here is one such moment, captured on my husband's iPhone.
I feel so proud.
But after today, the big question won't be who drafts him, but whether he decides to play in the NFL or take a year off and ... go to England.
The thing is Myron Rolle isn't just a gifted athlete, he's smarter than most people. Way smarter. Today he became the first major college football player of his generation to win a Rhodes Scholarship.
Rolle will have to make a decision whether to go into the NFL if he's drafted -- and all indications are he will be -- or go to Oxford to study (his subject of choice is a one-year master's degree in medical anthropology). The riches of the NFL vs. a prestigious graduate degree may seem like an easy decision for the few athletes who get a shot at pro football glory, but Rolle has bigger plans for his life than stopping opposing receivers. He wants to become a doctor and open a clinic to help the poor in the Bahamas, where his recent ancestors are from.
Frankly, I don't see how he can pass up the chance to study at Oxford. He can always start his NFL career a year from now. As rare as it is for a young kid to make it to the NFL, it's rarer still to earn a Rhodes Scholarship. He was only two of 13 candidates chosen out of his group -- the other was a former member of the Duke womens tennis team.
What a time to be a big brain.
What with Barack Obama's capacity to speak in complete sentences, unlike George Bush and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and now a football player winning a Rhodes Scholarship, smart is the new cool.
Whatever Myron decides, I wish him well. After all, the world really is his oyster. He could someday even be President of the United States, just like former Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton. Cause we all know now that's possible. Kinda makes the world much cooler, don't it?
I'm also a bit of a music snob. There is some stuff on my iPod that I don't like to share with anyone. That's why they call them guilty pleasures, you know?
The thing is I keep my distance from popular pop music pretty much. When everybody was listening to Janet Jackson, I was discovering Joe Henry. When Brittany Spears or Radiohead were charting, I was still working through John Hiatt and Lucinda Williams, discovering Whiskeytown (where Ryan Adams got his start) and taking some side trips through country blues and alt country and sometimes down my parents' memory lane, stopping to visit with Billie and Frank and Tony Bennett. I figured there wasn't enough time to listen to everything, so I decided to stick to my own backroads, wherever they would lead me. Along the way, I checked out Eminem (and liked some of it) and had a White Stripes phase and even heard my first Justin Timberlake song. But none of it stuck. I kept going back to my old familiar places.
Yesterday, I heard my first Beyonce song.
I know, I know. I had no idea what I was missing. None.
But now I get what all the fuss is about. First thing, girl's got serious pipes. The song I heard, "If I Were a Boy," from her new album I Am ... Sasha Fierce, kills. (Great title too.) Seriously. Not that anybody wants this picture in their head, but S.O.L. was dancing around the living room. I kid you not.
I listened to a couple more songs from the record and while they weren't as fun as this one, it made me want to dig a little deeper. One cut is a kind of rif off of the choral piece Ava Maria (the Charles Gounod version I believe), an old favorite of mine. Makes me wish she would stretch out and away from hip pop, maybe even record a CD of American Standards. Who wouldn't pay to hear Beyonce sing Billie Holiday? Not that she hasn't skimmed the surface -- after all she portrays blues legend Etta James in the upcoming film Cadillac Records. I don't know if there's any footage of her doing "Sunday Kind of Love," but I'd be curious to see if she could pull it off. Check out blogger Undercover Black Man's post on the movie here. And of course, she was in Dreamgirls, which now I have to see.
You can be a music elitist, but if a song makes you happy than there's gotta be something right about it in my book.
I dare you not to dance around your living room, too. Check out "If I Were a Boy" streaming on my Vox Stash and listen for yourself.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Do you see the election results as a repudiation of your politics?
Our new president-elect won one and a half points more than George W. Bush won in 2004, and he did so, in great respect, by adopting the methods of the Bush campaign and conducting a vast army of persuasion to identify and get out the vote.
But what about your great dream of creating a permanent Republican governing majority in Washington?
I never said permanent. Durable.
Do you have any advice for him? You already criticized Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s new chief of staff, as a sharply partisan choice.
I raised a question as to whether this would be the best use of Rahm Emanuel’s talents. If you’re trying to work through a big legislative priority, it is sort of hard if you have a guy who has a reputation as a tough, hard, take-no-prisoners, head-in-your-face, scream-and-shout, send-them-a-dead-fish partisan.
Do you like Joe Biden?
I think he has an odd combination of longevity and long-windedness that passes for wisdom in Washington.
Do you regret anything that happened in the White House during your tenure?
Do you have any advice for [President Bush] at this point?
With all due respect, I don’t need you to transmit what I want to say to my friend of 35 years.
Remember, attack politics are out. It’s a new age of civilized discourse.
You’re the one who hurt my feelings by saying you didn’t trust me.
Did I say that?
Yes, you did. I’ve got it on tape. I’m going to transcribe this and send it to you.
Excerpts from an interview conducted, condensed and edited by Deborah Solomon.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
If you haven't noticed yet, I'm back. And I'm going to roll with the political stuff for awhile. Forgive me, but it's the first time in forever that I'm jazzed about Washington again.
I promise to drop a sports post in the mix soon. After all, my Giants have been way hot since this here blog predicted their shocking Super Bowl victory last January (yep, that's me giving me props). I knew they'd be good this season and I knew the Cowboys were overrated (I am so over Tony Romo) but I didn't expect them to be the best team in the NFC after Week 10. Anyway, I'll get back to that stuff soon -- I'm waiting for the NBA season to get interesting.
So, The New York Times has a little story posted on the front page of its website tonight that I think is going to turn into a big deal on the news shows this week -- and not in a good way, either. Basically, the gist of the story is that if you're interested in a high-level position in the Obama Administration, you'd better be prepared to dig deep into your past.
The Obama Transition Team has sent out a seven-page questionnaire which the Times has put up on its website, calling it perhaps the "most extensive — some say invasive — application ever."
The questions range from the simple to the ridiculously complex, a document only a lawyer could love -- and considering a lot of Washington insiders are lawyers anyway, I guess that works. But the questions themselves ask for an amazing amount of detail and background information on job applicants, their spouses and even their relatives.
Here are two examples:
- 13) Electronic communications: If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an email, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe.
- 17) Please list each membership, including any board memberships, you or your spouse have or have had with any political, civic, social, charitable, educational, professional, fraternal, benevolent or religious organization, private club or other membership organization (including any type of tax-exempt organization) during the past ten years. Please include dates of membership and any positions you mayhave had with the organization.
I understand what they're trying to do -- at least I think I do -- but it seems to me that there has to be a better way to ensure a conflict-of-interest-free administration, then a ridiculously over-the-top invasion of privacy. Seriously, if these guys are that paranoid, I'm worried for them.
White the Times story notes that small stuff like traffic tickets with fines less than $50 don't have to be reported, the breadth of the requests have sent "job-seekers to rummage from basements to attics ... to document both their achievements and missteps."
You even have to give them all your aliases, including any screenname you might have used online. I guess moFOpimp$$69 would raise a red flag. Apparently even though the vetting processes has been getting more arduous with each new administration, Obama's goes even above and beyond any previous questionnaires. Technology plays a large role -- the article points out, "there was no Facebook the last time a new president came to town."
Critics of the questionnaire say the inclusion of family members' histories, including grown children, is too invasive. I tend to agree. I have a feeling that in trying to avoid future embarrassment, the Obama team might have walked into it with this questionnaire. I suspect it's going to get talked about a lot over the next few days.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
In honor of Veteran's Day, I think it's important to reflect on what led us to invade Iraq and what a complete cluster fuck it became in the hands of an administration that was more concerned with ideology and fear-mongering.
The war is just one example of the Bush Administration's systematic and arrogant refusal to follow the international law or even the Constitution of the United States or accept any dissent, even from their own people.
One thing that should not be overlooked when examining the Bush Administration is to understand that its critics are not just left-wing radical crazies and Democrats. A good number of the Administration's critics -- especially the ones who spoke up against the secret detention and interrogation program and the black sites and Gitmo came from insider the Administration. They were Conservative lawyers who found themselves morally opposed to the Bush policies. A host of others spoke up as well, many at the risk of their careers in public service, including experienced military, intelligence and law-enforcement people. In fact, it is a fact that the upper levels of the White House, including Bush himself, were warned early on that what they were doing was not only wrong and politically stupid but possibly criminal. And yet, they pushed forward because they were convinced they were right.
It's curious for me to hear the Conservative wingnuts call President-elect Barack Obama (shown above embracing Iraq War Veteran Tammy Duckworth) a socialist, Marxist and a man who would endanger the rights of Americans. It's curious because this is exactly what's been happening under George W. Bush. I wonder what your average American might think if they discovered that since 9/11, the Bush White House has enacted laws, sometimes without any oversight or input from anyone who remotely disagreed with them, including consent or dissent from the American public, that would allow the President of the United States to kidnap, torture and indefinitely detain any person deemed an enemy of the United States, even American citizens.
I'm not making that up either. It's freaking true.
Consider for example, the 2003 so-called "Torture Memo" written by John Yoo. In this 81-page outrageous and amateurishly argued legal memo Yoo (pronounced You) -- a lawyer in the Bush White House’s Office of Legal Counsel (more on the OLC later) – contends without any sense of irony, the following (taken verbatim from the memo):
"Any effort by Congress to regulate the interrogation of enemy combatants would violate the Constitution's sole vesting of the Commander-in-Chief authority in the President....Congress can no more interfere with the President's conduct of the interrogation of enemy combatants than it can dictate strategic or tactical decisions on the battlefield."
I know it’s hard to believe that a trained lawyer made this argument but there it is in black and white. The scope of the memo frightening -- for anyone who lives under a democratic government. Yoo matter-of-factly (and quite incorrectly) interprets the U.S. Constitution as giving the President virtually unlimited powers in wartime, saying that the President alone has the right to do whatever he wants even to enemies, whether they are inside the United States or not, and that said actions should be unfettered by any laws, domestic or international. Nor by any treaties even those signed by former Presidents, not by Congress, not even by the Constitution.
Unfortunately, this was not an isolated memo, a single error by a radical member of the Bush White House.
As brilliantly detailed in Jane Mayer's recent book, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story About How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals,” this type of reasoning is at the foundation of the Unitary Executive Theory, a philosophy espoused by Vice President Dick Cheney for years and one which he publicly and privately supported and then actively tried to enforce in post 9/11 America. Among its major proponents were David Addington, the Vice President’s chief of staff and recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
This theory, refined during the Reagan administration, is that where the Constitution vests power in the executive, especially power over foreign affairs and war, the president, as chief executive, is rightfully immune to legislative abridgements of his autonomy. Judicial abridgements are another matter.
Those words were not spoke by what Addington might refer to as a "squishy" Liberal, but by Conservative columnist George Will, who also wrote in the same article condemning other righties belief in the theory:
"Because contemporary conservatism was born partly in reaction against two liberal presidents -- against FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society -- conservatives, who used to fear concentrations of unchecked power, valued Congress as a bridle on strong chief executives. But, disoriented by their reverence for Reagan, and sedated by Republican victories in seven of the last 10 presidential elections, many conservatives have not just become comfortable with the idea of a strong president, they have embraced the theory of the "unitary executive."
The Yoo Memo and dozens of others issued by the White House OLC, were clear attempts by the Bush Administration to use the Unitary Executive Theory as a legal umbrella to justify giving the President unprecedented authority to, among other things, torture, secretly detain and deny basic legal rights to terrorism suspects, despite being in direct violation of U.S. and international law. (I highlighted suspects because in this country, being arrested and accused of a crime does not make you guilty of that crime. We actually take into account a person might actually be innocent, not something the Bushies dwelt on, apparently. And it should be understood as well that even American citizens could be classified as enemy combatants and treated as such, meaning they would have no rights under Habeas Corpus or any other such quaint legal protections.)
To put this stuff into the right perspective, consider the historical role and importance of the Office of Legal Counsel.
In Mayer's book, she explains:
"The OLC plays a unique role in the federal government. Sometimes referred to as the Attorney General’s law firm, its small but often brilliant staff of lawyers, many of whom are political appointees, issue opinions that are legally binding on the rest of the executive branch. If the OLC interprets the law in a certain way, unless the attorney general overrules it, the government must too. If the OLC says a previously outlawed practice, such as waterboarding, is legal, it is nearly impossible to prosecute U.S. Officials who followed that advice on good faith. As Jack Goldsmith, who headed the OLC in 2003, put it, OLC memos were virtual ‘golden shields.” The office wields “one of the momentous, and dangerous powers in the government: the power to dispense get-out-of-jail-free cards.” At the same time, OLC decisions also stripped dissenters of the ability to make opposing legal arguments ...”
The last part of this is significant because it goes to the heart of the way Bush governed this nation. These opinions were almost entirely made in secret by unelected officials -- five lawyers who called themselves “the War Counsel” – without for the most part the input or consent of Congress or even the Pentagon, CIA or FBI. These five men – Yoo, Addington, Timothy Flanigan, Alberto Gonzales and William Haynes had almost no experience in counterterrorism, law enforcement or even a rudimentary understanding of Islamic fundamentalism or the Muslim world. None of them had any real-world military experience. These were the men who were making post-9/11 policy – they were literally running the war on terror.
As Mayer goes on to argue, the policies of the Bush Administration were in direct conflict with the ideals set by men such as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. These men were deeply influenced by the ideals of the European Enlightenment, the very ideals which inspired the first Americans to rise up against the tyranny of the British King. No sane person could argue that it was not the express and clear goal of the Founding Fathers to create a new kind of government that would ensure that the executive would not and could not claim sole power over the government and its people. And further, that he be limited by specific checks and balances those that reside in the hands of the judiciary (courts) and legislative (congress) branches. The single most important argument against the Unitary Executive Theory, which at its core is a direct assault on the very idea that is the United States of America.
The basis for the Bill of Rights can be found in the writings of Cesare Beccaria, specifically his groundbreaking work “On Crime and Punishments” which men such as Jefferson and Franklin had read and deeply admired. They saw its tenets as the building blocks of a democratic nation, on which it would have to stand to survive as a place that was truly free from tyranny and oppression. This is where they got the basis for the Fifth (against self-incrimination) and Eighth (a ban cruel and unusual punishment) amendments come from.
These are not mere ideals to be admired in history class or in a dusty document in the Library of Congress. They are time-tested principals that have set the standard for any nation hoping to be a true democracy.
Our belief in liberty has inspired not only the American people but other nations around the world. It was America, after all, that led the movement that championed the Geneva Conventions and later the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, or the CAT for short. There is no confusing legal mumbo jumbo about the CAT. It bans torture absolutely, under any circumstances. It leaves no question whatsoever as to the legality of torture, forbidding it completely and without reservation by any nation or nation’s representatives. There are no loopholes. The CAT was signed by the United States and it is therefore bound by its contents.
But Bush and Cheney, using their own lawyers and I say again WITHOUT THE CONSENT OR DISSENT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, signed and/or approved legally-binding documents. It’s significant that they did not allow or apparently trust the people who elected them, to have a frank, open dialogue on any of this shit. While other Presidents have been guilty of trying to expand their authority and of making policy in secret, it could be argued that none have gone so far or claimed as much unfettered, broad-reaching, unabated power as this administration. What they have done is criminal.
There is no mistaking their attempt to circumvent U.S. and International laws, no arguing they did it in secret and did not in many cases even accept input from Bush’s own cabinet. It is a fact that they not only authorized the capture, torture and secret detainment of suspected terrorists but they actually committed these barbaric acts in the name of the United States.
And even if you make the argument that terrorists deserve to be tortured, you must also note that many of the suspects tortured and detained secretly by the U.S. were later found to be innocent or were simple released, no charges ever having been filed against them.
Beyond the Bush Administration’s obvious disregard for basic human rights, the violations of the Geneva Conventions and the clear and secretive end run around the U.S. Constitution, the War on Terror has been an epic failure.
Worse, it has made the world less safe.
On Veteran's Day, let's consider those real-world consequences. If the United States of America, the shining example of freedom, tolerance and democratic ideals around the world, can torture suspected enemies, imprison them in secret, deny them basic human and legal rights without cause, even kill them, where exactly does that leave other nations? Why, for example, would our enemies follow the Geneva Conventions or the CAT, now that they know that our President doesn’t think it applies to him and by extension to anyone he deems as an enemy?
What do you suppose will happen, to U.S. military, intelligence or law enforcement personnel -- even innocent Americans abroad – when (not if) they are detained by a foreign country and accused of a crime?
What possible footing would the U.S. Government have to protest such an arrest by arguing that the treatment violates international law, the detainee's civil rights, habeas corpus and basic human decency -- when it denied those same rights to others, with impunity and without regard or consequence?
There is a standard for decency that has been championed by this nation from its first hours on Earth. And despite dark moments when we have abdicated our responsibility to uphold our core values of liberty and freedom, we have managed to hold onto our nation's soul. But Bush and Cheney and their lawyers, along with their legions of sychophants, sold our ideals down a river of fear and arrogance and in the name of national security, all while making us less secure and more like our enemy. They claimed to defend our most precious ideals, while at the same time believing they those ideals did not apply to them. These so-called patriots diminished America and everything it stood for.
Anyone who argues that Obama will take away our rights might want to take a look at the rights they lost over the past seven years.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Just a note about his name. The name Chamuco came off of a tequila bottle in Mexico. Supposedly, it translates to "little devil." Our little devil is aptly named. It wasn't easy coming up with one for this guy. We tried a few. We thought "Dizzy" to go with Louie who is named after Louie Armstrong (I've also had cats named George & Ira and Sassy, after Sarah Vaughan. You get the picture). Naming the new puppy was a puzzle. The first one we settled on was Obama though my mother thought it might seem offensive to some people, the reality is that we were so into the election, it was all we were thinking about. I mean if the circumstances were different, we might have named him after Hillary. But it was all solved when we made that fateful trip to Mexico City and ordered tequila.
My friends will confirm my love for my dogs and, really, all pugs. Since we adopted Louie, I've grown into a huge fan of the breed. Pug people call it getting "pugged". In his election-night address, President-elect Barack Obama promised his two beautiful daughters that, following historical tradition, he would get them a puppy when they moved into the White House.
You'd think I'd love for the Obamas to adopt a pug. They are a fantastic breed. Loyal, yet independent and occasionally stubborn, they are very smart and lovable animals. They are brachycephalic and can have breathing problems but many live long and healthy lives. While some of them snore, I know many who don’t. My husband snores louder than my pugs.
Pugs are charming dogs, big on personality and yet small in stature. A latin term, multum in parvo, is often used to described them. Its literal translation is "much in little" but pug people like to say it means a big dog in a small package. This is an advantage for people who don’t have room for a larger dog but don't want the attitude or hyperactiveness of the other small breeds.
Yet, I don’t want the President’s family to have a pug. The problem with pugs is that they are challenging dogs. They require patience and attention and they aren’t the type of dog that is good on his own. They don't respond well to great variances in temperature, especially heat. Because of this and some other traits (they can have high-pitched barks and they tend to shed a lot for example) a lot of pugs end up in pug rescue or shelters.
After the movie “Men in Black” came out, pugs were suddenly in vogue. Everybody wanted to get one like Frank. But people didn’t understand pugs and more than a few gave them up or worse. My friends who have been working for years in pug rescues have had to deal with unwanted and abused pugs. They don't want to see anymore out there. Louie, our first rescue, is blind in one eye and deaf in one ear -- both from not uncommon pug ailments.
So, Mr. President, get sweet Sasha and Malia a sturdy everyday dog like a lab. Better yet, send a message to the unwanted dogs of America and get a mutt from the shelter.
But whatever you do, please don't get a pug.
I bet there's more information about government on this page than the Bush White House released in the last eight years. Check it out at www.change.gov
There's also a place for Americans to tell their own stories -- kind of like an Internet-wide town hall (you can get there by clicking the image).
That's right -- a line to the White House, which you might be excused for forgetting during the last eight years, is the People's House. As in We the People of the United States.
Maybe it's a brilliant strategy but it's still a great indicator of the openness we can expect from an Obama Administration (god, I LOVE saying that).
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
In this MSNBC clip, she looks, well ... proud. Pretty damn strange since she not only works for the other guys but she unhesitatingly it seems flacked for one of the worst presidents in the history of the United States. Time will reveal more about the inner workings of the Bush White House and why not one member of his inner circle stood up for the People of the United States. A failure that led to the loss of lives, a reality almost too difficult to believe.
Rice has a fascinating history. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama at a time when it was brutally racially divided and she was friends with one of the four young black girls who were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. (And the Republicans think William Ayers was a bad guy?) The fact that she became a Conservative seems anathema to this history but then again, it's kind of what's so great about America, ins't it. Like electing a black man to be President of the United States. Damn.
Doesn't make her right for being Bush's 'yes' woman but nonetheless, I appreciate the humanity she shows here, even if it's eight years late and a few billion dollars short.
Sounding like the historical brother of Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, President-elect Barack Hussein Obama sounded a siren call for change, unity and civic responsibility in his speech to his supporters last night in Chicago's Grant Park and to the millions listening on radio, TV and on the Internet.
It was a remarkable speech showing Obama's sense of history and perspective and acknowledging the debt he owes to a nation who rose up to support him and also reiterating that there is much work left to do. I've embedded the speech here, followed by the text as published by CNN on its website, because it's one everyone in America should hear.
Just to put it all into perspective, I'm including George W. Bush's acceptance speech from 2004, this was the day before he told reporters that he had earned "political capital" and he was going to spend it.
The fucker sure spent it. At the cost of American lives, the economy and the basic tenets of our Constitution. Even then, his promise of unity seemed empty but now, after four more years of divisive politics and backroom, shadowy governing, they are even more empty.
Without further ado, here are the two speeches so you can judge for yourself.
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.
It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.
We are, and always will be, the United States of America.
It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.
A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Sen. McCain.
Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.
I congratulate him; I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.
I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.
And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.
Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.
And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.
To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.
And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.
To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way.
To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.
But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.
I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.
It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.
It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.
This is your victory.
And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.
You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.
Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.
There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.
There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.
I promise you, we as a people will get there.
There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.
But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.
What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.
This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.
It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.
Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.
In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.
Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not
have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.
And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.
To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.
That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.
She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.
And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.
At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes
dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.
When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.
She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.
A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.
And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.
Yes we can.
America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.
This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.
Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.
(end of Obama's Election-night address).
Bush's Acceptance From Election-night 2004
Thank you all. Thank you all for coming. We had a long night -- and a great night. The voters turned out in record numbers and delivered an historic victory.
Earlier today, Senator Kerry called with his congratulations. We had a really good phone call, he was very gracious. Senator Kerry waged a spirited campaign, and he and his supporters can be proud of their efforts. (Applause.)
Laura and I wish Senator Kerry and Teresa and their whole family all our best wishes.
America has spoken, and I'm humbled by the trust and the confidence
of my fellow citizens.
With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans, and I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your President.
There are many people to thank, and my family comes first. Laura is the love of my life. I'm glad you love her, too. I want to thank our daughters, who joined their dad for his last campaign. I appreciate the hard work of my sister and my brothers. I especially want to thank my parents for their loving support.
I'm grateful to the Vice President and Lynne and their daughters, who have worked so hard and been such a vital part of our team. The Vice President serves America with wisdom and honor, and I'm proud to serve beside him.
I want to thank my superb campaign team. I want to thank you all for your hard work. I was impressed every day by how hard and how skillful our team was. I want to thank Marc -- Chairman Marc Racicot and ---- the Campaign Manager, Ken Mehlman. And the architect, Karl Rove. I want to thank Ed Gillespie for leading our Party so well.
I want to thank the thousands of our supporters across our country. I want to thank you for your hugs on the rope lines; I want to thank you for your prayers on the rope lines; I want to thank you for your kind words on the rope lines. I want to thank you for everything you did to make the calls and to put up the signs, to talk to your neighbors and to get out the vote. And because you did the incredible work, we are celebrating today.
There's an old saying, "Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks." In four historic years, America has been given great tasks, and faced them with strength and courage. Our people have restored the vigor of this economy, and shown resolve and patience in a new kind of war. Our military has brought justice to the enemy, and honor to America. Our nation has defended itself, and served the freedom of all mankind. I'm proud to lead such an amazing country, and I'm proud to lead it forward.
Because we have done the hard work, we are entering a season of hope. We'll continue our economic progress. We'll reform our outdated tax code. We'll strengthen the Social Security for the next generation. We'll make public schools all they can be. And we will uphold our deepest values of family and faith.
We will help the emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan so they can grow in strength and defend their freedom. And then our servicemen and women will come home with the honor they have earned. With good allies at our side, we will fight this war on terror with every resource of our national power so our children can live in freedom and in peace.
Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans. So today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent: To make this nation stronger and better I will need your support, and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.
Let me close with a word to the people of the state of Texas. We have known each other the longest, and you started me on this journey. On the open plains of Texas, I first learned the character of our country: sturdy and honest, and as hopeful as the break of day. I will always be grateful to the good people of my state. And whatever the road that lies ahead, that road will take me home.
The campaign has ended, and the United States of America goes forward with confidence and faith. I see a great day coming for our country and I am eager for the work ahead. God bless you, and may God bless America.