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John McCain & the USNA Honor Code

Had he lived, today would have been my wonderful Dad’s 80th birthday.  And I am fairly sure he would be facing a dilemma he had never faced before.

My Dad was a very proud graduate of the United States Naval Academy.  As I’ve written before, the physical rigors of the Academy were a huge challenge to him — like me, he was no athlete, and like me, he was a restless, relentless night owl.  He did Walk the Yard on many occasions for being late to formation (often because he had been up late the night before helping his fellow midshipmen with their homework); as my Mom says, it was a good thing he was so smart because he often had little time to study.  (He graduated in the top 10 in his class.)  But he never, ever, either while he was a Midshipman or any time during his service or his life, violated the Academy’s Honor Code.

This is today’s iteration of that Code (which I daresay has not changed a great deal):

Midshipmen are persons of integrity: They stand for that which is right.

They tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. They do not lie.

They embrace fairness in all actions. They ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented. They do not cheat.

They respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property. They do not steal.

Source ~ United States Naval Academy(My emphasis added.)

As the Academy’s website notes:

It is our responsibility to develop a selfless sense of duty that demands excellence both of ourselves and of those with whom we serve. We must honor our loyalties without compromising our ultimate obligation to the truth. Our leadership must set a standard that reflects loyalty to our goals and the courage to stand accountable for all our actions, both those that lead to success and to those that end in failure. We will never settle for achieving merely what is expected of us but will strive for a standard of excellence that reflects the dedication and courage of those who have gone before us. When we attain our goal, we will raise our expectations; when we fall short, we will rise up and try again. In essence, we espouse leadership by example, a leadership that will inspire others to follow wherever we may lead.

Source ~ United States Naval Academy(My emphasis added.)

Throughout his life, my Dad had little patience — and even less respect — for those who behaved dishonorably.  The only offense (besides failing to live up to high academic expectations) for which my brother and I were punished severely was lying.  We learned early on never to do so.

Occasionally, I believe, my Dad was really na├»ve  (this is another trait, alas, that I sometimes share).  But his (like mine) was a naivete born of faith in his fellow human beings; because he did not behave dishonorably, he found it hard to believe that others could.  

I suppose this explains, somewhat, why he was a loyal Republican — even during the Nixon Administration and later that of Ronald Reagan.  I don’t think he liked (or respected) either of these men very much, but I know he voted for them.  He did like and respect George H.W. Bush; he did not live to vote for his son.

This year, though, I am pretty sure his vote would be for Barack Obama.  

I think my Dad would recognize the great disrespect — disdain even — that John McCain has shown for the honorable tradition of the USNA, and for its principles.  I cannot believe that he would not have been horrified by the sleaze emanating from Sen. McCain’s campaign, by the outright, provable lies Sen. McCain has told not only about his own past and positions, but also about those he has repeated, ad nauseum, about Barack Obama.  McCain Lie Counter

And I am one hundred percent certain that he would have been apopletic by Sen. McCain’s shameless and dangerous choice of the utterly unqualified (as well as uneducated) Sarah Palin as his running mate.  

Our Democratic Party has run and elected honorable graduates of the United States Naval Academy during the past several decades, including:

President James Earl Carter, Jr. (Class of ’46; 59th in his class of 820)

Senator James Webb (Class of ’68; awarded the Navy Cross for heroism)

Rep. Joe Sestak  (PA-07)(Class of ’74; second in his class)

Eric Massa (candidate for NY-29)(Class of ’81) Donate.

John McCain is not honorable.  And this year, I think, for that and other reasons, my Dad, had he lived, would be casting his first vote for the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

I miss you, Dad, so very much.  I am grateful for the chance to remember you tonight.  

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We are all “working Americans”

I am growing tired of the television pundits referring to the backbone American families as “working class” rather than “middle class.”  I don’t know who came up with these distinctions, but they don’t seem to me to be accurate, and I think they work to divide this country in ways that it is not, economically speaking, divided.

If someone knows a (quote unquote) middle class family who is not working hard, please alert me.  I am not familiar with any such family.  We need to stop quaking to the Karl Rovian splinter politics — all middle class families are “working class” Americans because ALL of them work for their incomes.  It is time to remind everyone that the divide is not between some illusory group of “working class” Americans and “middle class” Americans, but, instead, between those whose incomes are derived from work and those whose incomes are derived from wealth.  Period.

Michelle Obama spoke movingly tonight about her family life; about growing up in a family whose father had a job with a public utility and whose mother stayed at home to raise the children.

Her name is Christine and she is not “retarded.”

There are perhaps 15 or 20 moments in anyone’s life that are memorably perfect.  This is about one of mine, which was made possible by a young woman I only knew for four weeks and whose name is Christine.

The college I was lucky enough to attend divided the academic year 4-1-4.  We took four courses in the fall, and exams before Christmas break.  After the holdays, we came back for four weeks for an intensive course in something in which we (and the professor who taught it) were really interested.  The alternative (which we encouraged to do at least one year) was to spend those four weeks doing volunteer work.  During my junior year, I traveled to South Texas to spend those four weeks volunteering at a state home for children and adults with significant to profound mental disabilities.

A Soldier’s Final Wish Comes True

All soldiers wish for two things: Another day and the chance to come home.

Sgt. Peter Neesley had a third wish: He wanted to bring the stray dogs — Mama and Boris — he had befriended in Iraq home with him.

Sgt. Peter Neesley did not get either of his first two wishes.  On Christmas Day, from causes still unexplained, he died.

Today, though, thanks to Best Friends Animal Society, his last wish came true.  

Pretty Bird Woman House: Please Donate for Me

Nine years ago this week  — it seems an eternity ago — I was sleeping next to my husband in my parents’ house on a Texas border island, at the end of the most miserable Christmas I have ever spent.

Seven months earlier, my husband and I had sold our house in Virginia, had sold most of the furniture in it, and had embarked on what I had earnestly hoped would be a new life.  He was a professional whose practice had failed, a functioning alcoholic who refused to acknowledge it, and an abuser whose abuse had emerged on the day we were returning from our honeymoon and had grown in spite and fury, and by leaps and bounds, intermittently, in the two years since.

Torture: Always Wrong

Today, Mark Filip, the administration’s nominee to be Michael Mukasey’s deputy, had his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And much like his future boss did during his hearing, Filip (like Mukasey, a former federal judge) treaded lightly, seeming deferential while also proving elusive on certain key questions.

Source ~ TPMuckraker

When Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA ) asked whether waterboarding is torture, he punted, parroting Mukasey’s answer exactly. Like Mukasey, Filip called the practice “repugnant.” But stopped short, explaining that since Mukasey is conducting a review, he couldn’t “get out in front of him on that question.” He added: “if I am confirmed… I would view it like any other legal question and take a long hard look at it, and if I had a view other than his, I would tell him so.”

Kennedy responded that after what Mukasey went through at his hearing, “We thought you’d be able to give a response.”

Source ~ TPMuckraker

Repugnant.  Well, I suppose that’s one word for it.

My Mom (!) Says: Impeach and Imprison!

My Mom will be 78 on Tuesday.  She is a stiff-upper-lip Yankee, born and raised in a tiny town in Vermont.  This was the 4-room school she attended (and at which she received a superb education) and graduated from as the top 14 percent of her class of 7:

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A candle for Riley Ann

Fifteen years ago, I represented a fine young reporter who wrote a heartbreaking series of stories about a three-year-old victim of child abuse, and, later, about the fate of her younger sister.  The reason for the representation is largely irrelevant ~ it had much more to do with a vindictive prosecutor (hacked off about earlier stories my client had written) than with anything my client had written with regard to the little girl. Indeed, what my client had done with regard to the child abuse case was just shy of heroic.

During the course of that representation, I wrote an Op-Ed for the local newspaper. The reason for the piece was advocacy, of course, but it was also because the story itself had so touched my soul.  On the Sunday it was scheduled to appear, I flipped to the Op-Ed page and was so disappointed to find that it not there.  It wasn’t there because the thoughtful editor of that section of the paper had put it on the first page, as a friend I had called, in tears, so kindly pointed out.

Michael Vick is in prison; why is human torture OK?

Take a look at this tortured dog:

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(photo courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States, with permission)

This is one of the poor dogs that was lucky enough to survive the torture inflicted on him at Michael Vick’s fancy house (and dog torture camp) in Virginia.

Other dogs were not so “fortunate.”

According to prosecutors, Vick and his cohorts began purchasing pit bull puppies in late-2001 and would eventually “sponsor” individual dog fights with purses as high as $26,000. In the indictment’s most harrowing parts, federal investigators describe what happened to some Bad Newz Kennels dogs that either lost matches or did not perform well in test fights. After a March 2003 loss by a female pit bull, codefendant Purnell Peace, “after consulting with Vick,” electrocuted the animal. In April, prosecutors allege, Vick, Peace, and Quanis Phillips, “executed approximately 8 dogs that did not perform well in ‘testing’ sessions.” These animals, the indictment claims, were killed “by various methods, including hanging, drowning, and slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.”

Source and link to indictment

Mr. Vick entered prison today.  He has pled guilty to federal charges related to illegal gambling and dogfighting.  He was scheduled to be sentenced on these charges on December 10.

Former American football star Michael Vick turned himself over to US marshals here Monday to begin serving a prison sentence for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy.

Vick, a National Football League star with the Atlanta Falcons before the dogfighting scandal ruined his career, and three co-defendants pleaded guilty to one count of interstate travel to aid illegal gambling and dogfighting.

Source ~ Agence France Press

How incredibly sad this all is.  

Notable for his 2001 NFL Draft pick from Virginia Tech, league records, and lucrative endorsements, his ban from the Falcons team in 2007 was due to involvement with illegal dogfighting and gambling activities and garnered him notoriety in animal cruelty awareness and enforcement.


A young man with the world by a string — a gifted athlete with a multi-million-dollar contract with which he could have done so much good.  And he chose to spend his money torturing dogs — apparently for fun and profit.

I cannot begin to comprehend what would motivate anyone to torture animals, for any reason.  Even more mind-boggling to me is the idea that someone with all the money in the world would choose to spend it to place bets on animal torture.

But countries, like fish, rot from the head down, and I cannot help but think tonight, as well, that we now live in a country where debates about the torture of human beings have become part of our lexicon — and acceptable.  We live in a country where candidates for the highest office in the land think it is okay to endorse (publicly) a form of torture used during the Spanish Inquisition:

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I abhor what Michael Vick did.  I am glad he is going to prison.  He deserves to go to prison.

But what kind of message are the Republican candidates for President sending to the children of this country with their pro-torture talking points? Or to the rest of the world?

Torture, cruelty in any form, whether toward people or animals, is simply not acceptable. Ever.  Not here.  Not in the country we live in.  That’s the message we should be sending.