Nadal at Wimbledon 2011

I’ve talked about this before:  Rafael Nadal is not only an amazing tennis player, but he is an interesting person as well.  I just ran across this headline in the Guardian, “‘I would love Andy Murray to win a grand slam,’ admits Rafael Nadal”

Andy Murray & Rafael Nadal

Murray is the young Scot who carries the weight of the Empire, particularly at Wimbledon. 

If it was not for his 10 grand slam titles and 36 other tournament victories, it would be hard to associate the Nadal who is courteous and who loves family life with the one who tears opponents apart on the court. On Friday he knows a whole country will be willing Murray to victory. And if Nadal was in the crowd instead of on the other side of the court, he would be leading the cheers.

“If I have to say one player who I want to win a grand slam, if it’s not me, I would say it’s Andy,” Nadal says. “He deserves it. [Novak] Djokovic has already won a lot of things this year, [Juan Martín] Del Potro has won a grand slam. Del Potro’s a fantastic player but he got to the semi-finals of a grand slam once and then he went on to win. Andy has been there seven times in the semi-finals. When you look at his career he deserves to win a grand slam. I know him as a person. I like him. He’s a good guy. That’s why I think it would be fair if he won a grand slam. The first thing is that I always want to wish the best to the good guys, the good people, and he’s a good person.”

Considering that they spend their working life trying to knock each other off the court, it might seem strange that Nadal and Murray should be such good friends. Not to Nadal.

“A lot of people believe that competition is like life,” says the Spaniard. “That’s not how I see it. I love to win, I love the competition and I will try my best until the last moment but what happens away from the court is not going to affect what happens on the court. We can try our best on the court and when we are off it we can be close friends, because we are talking 10 minutes before the match.

“I always go with the good people, not with the bad people or arrogant people. I know Andy is not like this. He’s a normal guy. He hasn’t changed with all the victories. That’s always a very positive thing for our sport, a positive example for all the kids and everybody. That’s why I like him and that’s why I wish him all the best.”

When Nadal steps on to court , though, he will not allow himself to worry about how devastated Murray might be if another chance goes begging. “I am sure he’s going to win a grand slam but probably not this time,” he says, before quickly correcting himself. “Sorry. That is a mistake in my English. I meant ‘hopefully’.”

This is why Nadal is a winner.  And even if he hasn’t gotten a grand slam yet, Murray is also a winner.

 

The War Powers Act

 

So, who needs permisson for what?  What should a woman have to do to have an abortion?  Should the President live in South Dakota or Kansas and have to follow those rules to declare war.  I think the President should notify Congress (which he hasn’t).  As Congressman Mike Capuano explained

Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, and the War Powers Act of 1973, states that unless a crisis threatening our security requires immediate action, only Congress may authorize the use of force. I firmly believe that the Constitution entrusts Congress – not the President acting alone – to decide when to put U.S. troops in harm’s way. The President has not yet fulfilled his obligation to seek Congress’ approval to continue military operations in Libya.This decision was not easy, but I feel very strongly about this matter and I don’t expect that the Administration will decide to seek Congressional approval at this point. I also want to make it very clear that my concerns go beyond one President and one war. In fact, I am more concerned about future Presidents who may wish to bring this country to war based on insufficient facts. There is no more important matter than war and peace, and the Constitution is very clear on this matter. I appeared on CNN earlier week to talk about the lawsuit; you may watch the interview here: http://inthearena.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/15/capuano-u-s-action-in-libya-illegal/.

 

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But I’m not sure that  Mike was  envisioning this!  Maybe it is time to rethink the War Powers Act to meet the current day defition of war.  Maybe it should include actions taken as part of a NATO or UN mandate.  Maybe it should include actions with no “boots on the ground.”  War has changed since the 1970’s.  Let’s think about this.

New York votes for marriage equality

New York is now the largest state to approve same-sex marriage joining Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia.  The law, passed and signed late last night, takes effect in 30 days.  With California’s law in limbo, New York becomes the largest state to legalize gay marriage.

The New York Times reported

With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”

In the end, four Republicans voted in favor; one Democrat voted against.

 

One last thing.  Can someone please explain this picture? 

I’m confused.  Is this Tea Party person just opposed to government controlling marriage?  Or wants more government control in the form of restricting who can marry?  I thought Tea Party people were libertarian and shouldn’t care.  I guess this falls into the “I oppose government, but don’t take away my social security” category.  Maybe they are confused, not me.

 

Leaving Afghanistan

Last night, President Obama announced that 10,000 American soldiers will leave Afghanistan by the end of the year with about 20,00 more gone by the end of next summer.  This leaves about 70,000.  These will in the President’s own words,  “…continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead.  Our mission will change from combat to support.  By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security. ”  OK then.  But why wait until 2014?  Do we expect things to be any different by then?  Or are our troops in Afghanistan there to stabilize the border with Pakistan?  Can’t really tell.

Soldiers watch Obama's speech from Afghanistan.

           (AP Photo of Soldiers in Afghanistan watching the speech)

According to my rudimentary math, we are going to take a year to move out 30,000 soldiers and it appears that the President’s “steady pace” is 30,000 a year. (70,000 over 30 months.)  I think the Russians left faster but they were on the same continent and I think we can say they were in retreat while we are claiming, if not victory, than mission accomplished. 

Here is link to a graphic from the New York Times about troop levels.

Meanwhile it looks as if we will be working on a political solution.  An excellent idea, but why are we waiting until next May to “shape the next phase of this transition”?  Is NATO too busy?  Maybe bombing Libya.?

If Afghanistan is the “good” fight, we still have about 47,000 troops in Iraq, the “bad war”.  They are all coming home beginning this summer.  According to this story in the Huffington Post

The United States has been in Iraq since 2003, and there are currently about 47,000 U.S. troops still in the country. Withdrawal, set to seriously go into effect by late summer, involves not only removing U.S. forces, but also pulling 63,000 contractors, closing 100 bases and getting rid of one million pieces of equipment.

This is supposed to happen by the end of this year.  I point this out in part to show that withdrawing more that 30,000 troops a year is logistically possible and in part to provide some good news.

Almost everyone seems to want us to stop fighting in the entire region (the Middle East and Northern Africa).  Even the United States Conference of Mayors wants money spent on our own infrastructure and deficit reduction.  And my only quarrel with the President is timing.

I think no one will be happy with this speech.  Those that want us to stay and fight will be unhappy that we are actually starting to leave.  Those that want us to leave will be unhappy with the pace of withdrawal.  And those of us who want to use the money elsewhere will find that we are still going to be spending money in Afghanistan for a long time to come.

As Eugene Robinson said

I doubt the speech will please either hawks or doves. From his frankly uninspiring, let’s-all-eat-our-peas delivery, I have to doubt whether the president even pleased himself.

Justice Clarence Thomas should resign

I’ve been thinking about this for several days now.  I’ve asked myself if this is just the left/progressive/liberal media piling on someone they have never liked much?  Am I attracted to this story because I never wanted him confirmed in the first place?  (I have my “I believe Anita” button somewhere.)  Is it because he never asks questions?  Because 99% of the time he does what Justice Scalia does?

I don’t think the New York Times is the liberal media.  And, yes, I’d like him to fall as payback for what he did to Anita Hill.  (I can’t be as forgiving as she).  I do believe that having him on the Court is a waste of a seat.  I also know that when Justice Kagan does not recuse herself from voting on the health care reform Fox etc. will be jumping all over her.  Justice Kagan has, however, recused herself from several cases that were already filed and being considered by the Department of Justice as well as her former office, Solicitor General.

What is the Times story about?  It is about preservation of a site in Pin Point, GA where Justice Thomas’ mother once picked crabs and the creation of a museum there.  It is about the owner making connection with Harlen Crow through Justice Thomas.  Crow, you may remember, financed the Swift Boat campaign against Senator John Kerry.

Mr. Crow stepped in to finance the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery, featuring a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point that has become a pet project of Justice Thomas’s.

The project throws a spotlight on an unusual, and ethically sensitive, friendship that appears to be markedly different from those of other justices on the nation’s highest court.

The two men met in the mid-1990s, a few years after Justice Thomas joined the court. Since then, Mr. Crow has done many favors for the justice and his wife, Virginia, helping finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Justice Thomas, presenting him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly providing $500,000 for Ms. Thomas to start a Tea Party-related group. They have also spent time together at gatherings of prominent Republicans and businesspeople at Mr. Crow’s Adirondacks estate and his camp in East Texas.

OK, Justices have to have a life outside of court and they have friends.  But as the Mike McIntire who wrote the story in the Times points out

In several instances, news reports of Mr. Crow’s largess provoked controversy and questions, adding fuel to a rising debate about Supreme Court ethics. But Mr. Crow’s financing of the museum, his largest such act of generosity, previously unreported, raises the sharpest questions yet — both about Justice Thomas’s extrajudicial activities and about the extent to which the justices should remain exempt from the code of conduct for federal judges.

Although the Supreme Court is not bound by the code, justices have said they adhere to it. Legal ethicists differed on whether Justice Thomas’s dealings with Mr. Crow pose a problem under the code. But they agreed that one facet of the relationship was both unusual and important in weighing any ethical implications: Justice Thomas’s role in Mr. Crow’s donation for the museum.

The code says judges “should not personally participate” in raising money for charitable endeavors, out of concern that donors might feel pressured to give or entitled to favorable treatment from the judge. In addition, judges are not even supposed to know who donates to projects honoring them.

What do other Justices, Justices on the other side of the Court’s ideological divide do?

It is not unusual for justices to accept gifts or take part in outside activities, some with political overtones.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer has attended Renaissance Weekend, a retreat for politicians, artists and media personalities that is a favorite of Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated in a symposium sponsored by the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, and a philanthropic foundation once tried to give her a $100,000 achievement award. She instructed that the money be given to charity.

And as I pointed out earlier, Justice Kagan has recused herself from a number of cases.

Justice Thomas and Harlan Crow are friends.  They spend time together.  Crow is helping to finance the museum and Thomas has done more than simply introduce the property owners to him.  According to the Times story he has picked the people to put the exhibit together and has worked on the film that will be shown.  Opposition first came from a group that opposes Thomas politically, but does that make this suspect?

No one is saying that Crow and his money have directly influenced any of Thomas’ votes.  But we can have suspicions.

Mr. Crow has not personally been a party to Supreme Court litigation, but his companies have been involved in federal court cases, including four that went to the appellate level. And he has served on the boards of two conservative organizations involved in filing supporting briefs in cases before the Supreme Court. One of them, the American Enterprise Institute, with Mr. Crow as a trustee, gave Justice Thomas a bust of Lincoln valued at $15,000 and praised his jurisprudence at an awards gala in 2001.

The institute’s Project on Fair Representation later filed briefs in several cases, and in 2006 the project brought a lawsuit challenging federal voting rights laws, a case in which Justice Thomas filed a lone dissent, embracing the project’s arguments. The project director, an institute fellow named Edward Blum, said the institute supported his research but did not finance the brief filings or the Texas suit, which was litigated pro bono by a former clerk of Justice Thomas’s.

“When it came time to file a lawsuit,” he said, “A.E.I. had no role in doing that.”

Plus we all know that the Affordable Health Care Act will be coming to the Court.

Supreme Court ethics have been under increasing scrutiny, largely because of the activities of Justice Thomas and Ms. Thomas, whose group, Liberty Central, opposed President Obama’s health care overhaul — an issue likely to wind up before the court. Mr. Crow’s donation to Liberty Central was reported by Politico.

So what does this all mean?  What can anyone do about it?

The Code of Conduct for judges does not directly apply to the Supreme Court largely because there is not higher court to enforce it.  Justices do say that they follow the Code anyway.  But Thomas does not seem to have reported all the travel paid for by Crow.  Even as a group of law professors and Common Cause call for legislation to extend the Code directly to Supreme Court Justices one has to wonder who would be the enforcer.  If a Justice is already ethically aware there is no problem.   But there will always be a Clarence Thomas who appears not to have a clue.  His friends should tell him it is time for him to leave the Court.

 

Bruins visit the Red Sox

I am not, as I have said before, a hockey fan.  But I did watch the ceremony at Fenway during which the Red Sox honored the Bruins.  This is my favorite picture of the event:  All the the Bruins throwing the first pitch to all the Sox.

Another view of the first pitch, which was -- unsurprisingly -- a little chaotic.

And this has to be my next favorite.

(Left to right) The Prince of Wales Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy, and the Stanley Cup -- all won by Bruins this postseason -- sat on the mound at Fenway Park.

The Stanley Cup on the mound.

I know that Boston sports fans, particularly Red Sox fans, run the risk of become the New Yankees – the team that everyone loves to hate, but we can’t seem to help glowing with pride.

Sal, Dianne and Chuck

Salvatore DeMasi is the third Massachusetts Speaker of the House in a row to end up a felon.  Charles Flaherty didn’t pay his taxes and Thomas Finneran lied to a grand jury.  Charlie and Tom took pleas and didn’t go to jail.  Tom lost his law license.  Sal went to trial, was found guilty and still thinks he is innocent.  Even my 93 year old mother who followed the trial avidly knew he was guilty.

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I think it is inevitable that DiMasi is going to jail.  He was just greedy.  As Speaker he hung around with men who were a lot wealthier than he was and he needed to keep up. 

Scott Leigh wrote yesterday in the Boston Globe

Outside the courthouse, Beacon Hill’s newest felon seemed in denial about what had just happened. Either that or his mental teleprompter had mistakenly loaded the “I’ve just been vindicated’’ speech rather than remarks better toned for a guilty verdict.

DiMasi thanked his family for standing by him “through this terrible ordeal,’’ then added: “All of the people in my community that every day supported me, encouraged me, and knew that I was not guilty of this crime, I thank them . . . I told all of you when I was indicted that I never made any decision unless it was based on what I thought was in the best interest of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts [and] my constituents.’’

The jury, of course, felt otherwise, and with good reason. No less credible a source than Steven Topazio, DiMasi’s former law associate, had testified about the way he had funneled $65,000 in Cognos money to DiMasi. And how, when the Globe — through the tenacious reporting of Andrea Estes — started to unravel the scheme, DiMasi had suggested that he fudge or lose the relevant part of his check register.

Asked in her post-trial press conference why she thought DiMasi had committed the crime, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz cited greed and high living. “People live beyond their means,’’ she said. “People get into financial trouble and unfortunately think that the resolution or how to solve that problem is by committing a crime that can put money in their pockets.’’

DiMasi did do a lot of good things.  We owe gay marriage and health care in part to him.  But that still does not mean he can break the law.

Chuck Turner, my neighbor and City Councilor, and Dianne Wilkerson, my State Senator and one time political ally are both currently serving time.  Both are African American.  No one would ever accuse Chuck of living a lavish lifestyle, but he still took illegal money.  Dianne’s Achilles Heel all along was finances:  personal and campaign.  Somehow her inability to find someone who could manage the money ended with the videotape of her stuffing money in her bra.  Neither of them actually did anything for their money, but at the very least they violated campaign finance laws.  I was worried at the beginning of the prosecution that DiMasi would some how escape.

This time, as Adrian Walker wrote, justice is colorblind.

Sal DiMasi had barely been convicted when a friend called to relate what she, like a sizable portion of the city’s population, feels about the verdict: relief.

“I was worried that he wouldn’t get convicted,’’ she said. “The black community would have gone crazy, after what happened to Chuck and Dianne.’’

That would be Chuck Turner and Dianne Wilkerson, the two Roxbury pols serving time for accepting bribes in exchange for helping a federal informant get a liquor license. They are in prison, and appropriately so.

Part of the backdrop of the DiMasi affair had been a sense that white politicians skate or at least face less harsh punishment. The wrist slaps handed out to former speakers Charlie Flaherty and Tom Finneran were often cited to me as evidence that justice is not necessarily blind.

It didn’t help matters that DiMasi was treated with kid gloves when he was arraigned, driven away from the federal courthouse in a fancy sports car. Wilkerson’s house was ransacked by federal agents, supposedly looking for the money she had taken, and Turner was led away from his City Hall office in disgrace on the morning he was arrested.

My point is not that Turner and Wilkerson were somehow mistreated. They weren’t. But the notion that justice has been evenly applied is good news for everybody.

In sheer financial terms, DiMasi’s crimes were in a different league from the other two. Wilkerson got $23,500, Turner accepted $1,000. DiMasi took close to $60,000 in cash and had access to hundreds of thousands more that was funneled to his close associates. Though he will not be sentenced until September, his sentence is very likely to exceed those of the other former elected officials.

“There was no way these nickel-and-dime crooks were going down, but DiMasi wasn’t,’’ said the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III of the Ella J. Baker House. “You have to give DiMasi credit: He knew how to really steal.’’

People on Beacon Hill like to talk about “ethics reform,’’ a cause that is clearly a work in progress. Not only does government need to be transparent and free of taint, but lapses must be treated equitably, too. Frankly, that hasn’t always been the case.

So maybe this is a watershed moment for clean government, in a way that DiMasi’s jury probably never contemplated. Justice prevailed. The cynics have been routed. The verdict is in, and it says that corrupt white politicians go to jail, too.

Maybe Adrian Walker is right, but I don’t have a lot of hope that this will change things. We are now watching the current speaker, Robert Deleo, negotiating for slot machines at race tracks.  He just happens to have one in his district.

We don’t need new laws or regulations.  We don’t need ethics reform.  We need politicians that understand the current laws and follow them.  My job is covered by the same laws.  The other day, a homeowner who had been assisted by several co-workers brought in a couple of loaves of home-baked bread.  After he was thanked and he left, we started asked if the value might be over the limit as a gift.  We knew it wasn’t, but we were still thinking about it.  Our elected officials need to think about these things also.