Saturday, July 21, 2007
Feds eye Fall indictment
BY T.J. QUINN
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Saturday, July 21st 2007, 4:00 AM
The grand jury investigating Barry Bonds has been extended for another six months, several sources familiar with the government's case have told the Daily News, and the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco is confident it will have enough evidence to secure an indictment once it resumes in September.
"They seem to feel they have a strong case," said one source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Another source said he believed prosecutors could secure an indictment if they sought one now, but that they would rather take the additional time to strengthen it. The grand jurors have not met for at least three weeks and have been instructed that they will not reconvene until September. Bonds is being investigated for perjury and tax evasion.
"If the case is 90% now, there's no reason not to go for 100%," the source said. "They aren't just waiting around for Greg Anderson."
The U.S. Attorney's office would not comment, with officials saying they legally cannot confirm or deny the existence of a sitting grand jury.
There had been widespread speculation that federal prosecutors would seek an extension while they handle several other matters related to the case - Bonds is not their only target in the investigation - and while Anderson, Bonds' former trainer, remains in prison for refusing to testify.
A fan shows his disdain for Barry Bonds during last night's Giants-Brewers game.
Sources familiar with the government's investigation said the grand jury's term was extended before jurors were scheduled to meet Thursday.
That means Bonds probably will be able to catch and pass Hank Aaron's record of 755 career home runs without being under indictment. Bonds, who didn't homer in San Francisco's 8-4 victory last night in Milwaukee, remains at 753.
"I think politically it would look terrible if they indicted him when he was one or two home runs away from breaking the record," one attorney with knowledge of the government's case said. "I think they'll let him break the record but I'd be very surprised if they don't indict."
However, the decision to seek an indictment will not be left solely up to the prosecutors who have directed the case.
Experts believe the decision will be made by U.S. Dept. of Justice officials because the case has such a high profile. Scott Schools, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, has said he does not want the job permanently, and sources have said former U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello will be appointed to his old position when a lengthy background check is complete.
Bonds was called before the original BALCO grand jury in 2003, and he testified that he had taken drugs identified as steroids, but did not know what they were at the time. Part of his testimony was overheard by a Daily News reporter, and the full extent of it was reported a year later by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Prosecutors opened a perjury investigation into Bonds, believing that he long knew what he was taking.
Bonds' former girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, also testified that he had given her $80,000 in cash from memorabilia sales, income that may not have been declared. Bonds' attorney, Michael Rains, has said he does not believe the government will indict, but recently conceded it might choose to proceed. A year ago, when Bonds' first grand jury was due to expire, Rains told him to expect an indictment, but the government moved to have its investigation into Bonds and other BALCO-related defendants shifted to another grand jury that was set to expire this month.
Major League Baseball sources have said they believe that if Bonds is indicted, commissioner Bud Selig, who attended last night's game in Milwaukee, will suspend him, an action that is sure to meet resistance from the MLB Players Association. Even MLB sources concede they would probably lose a grievance before an arbitrator, but that Selig wants to force the union to defend a player known to have used steroids, whether he knew what he was taking or not.
Books of The Times
An Epic Showdown as Harry Potter Is Initiated Into Adulthood
By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
The New York Times
Published: July 19, 2007
So, here it is at last: The final confrontation between Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, the “symbol of hope” for both the Wizard and Muggle worlds, and Lord Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named, the nefarious leader of the Death Eaters and would-be ruler of all. Good versus Evil. Love versus Hate. The Seeker versus the Dark Lord.
Early Shipping of ‘Harry Potter’ Brings Lawsuit (July 19, 2007)
Times Topics: Harry Potter
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS
By J. K. Rowling. Illustrations by Mary GrandPré
759 pages. Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. $34.99.
J. K. Rowling’s monumental, spellbinding epic, 10 years in the making, is deeply rooted in traditional literature and Hollywood sagas — from the Greek myths to Dickens and Tolkien to “Star Wars.” And true to its roots, it ends not with modernist, “Soprano”-esque equivocation, but with good old-fashioned closure: a big-screen, heart-racing, bone-chilling confrontation and an epilogue that clearly lays out people’s fates. Getting to the finish line is not seamless — the last part of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in the series, has some lumpy passages of exposition and a couple of clunky detours — but the overall conclusion and its determination of the main characters’ story lines possess a convincing inevitability that make some of the prepublication speculation seem curiously blinkered in retrospect.
With each installment, the “Potter” series has grown increasingly dark, and this volume — a copy of which was purchased at a New York City store yesterday, though the book is embargoed for release until 12:01 a.m. on Saturday — is no exception. While Ms. Rowling’s astonishingly limber voice still moves effortlessly between Ron’s adolescent sarcasm and Harry’s growing solemnity, from youthful exuberance to more philosophical gravity, “Deathly Hallows” is, for the most part, a somber book that marks Harry’s final initiation into the complexities and sadnesses of adulthood.
From his first days at Hogwarts, the young, green-eyed boy bore the burden of his destiny as a leader, coping with the expectations and duties of his role, and in this volume he is clearly more Henry V than Prince Hal, more King Arthur than young Wart: high-spirited war games of Quidditch have given way to real war, and Harry often wishes he were not the de facto leader of the Resistance movement, shouldering terrifying responsibilities, but an ordinary teenage boy — free to romance Ginny Weasley and hang out with his friends.
Harry has already lost his parents, his godfather Sirius and his teacher Professor Dumbledore (all mentors he might have once received instruction from) and in this volume, the losses mount with unnerving speed: at least a half-dozen characters we have come to know die in these pages, and many others are wounded or tortured. Voldemort and his followers have infiltrated Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, creating havoc and terror in the Wizard and Muggle worlds alike, and the members of various populations — including elves, goblins and centaurs — are choosing sides.
No wonder then that Harry often seems overwhelmed with disillusionment and doubt in the final installment of this seven-volume bildungsroman. He continues to struggle to control his temper, and as he and Ron and Hermione search for the missing Horcruxes (secret magical objects in which Voldemort has stashed parts of his soul, objects that Harry must destroy if he hopes to kill the evil lord), he literally enters a dark wood, in which he must do battle not only with the Death Eaters, but also with the temptations of hubris and despair.
Harry’s weird psychic connection with Voldemort (symbolized by the lightning-bolt forehead scar he bears as a result of the Dark Lord’s attack on him as a baby) seems to have grown stronger too, giving him clues to Voldemort’s actions and whereabouts, even as it lures him ever closer to the dark side. One of the plot’s significant turning points concerns Harry’s decision on whether to continue looking for the Horcruxes — the mission assigned to him by the late Dumbledore — or to pursue the Hallows, three magical objects said to make their possessor the master of Death.
Harry’s journey will propel him forward to a final showdown with his arch enemy, and also send him backward into the past, to the house in Godric’s Hollow where his parents died, to learn about his family history and the equally mysterious history of Dumbledore’s family. At the same time, he will be forced to ponder the equation between fraternity and independence, free will and fate, and to come to terms with his own frailties and those of others. Indeed, ambiguities proliferate throughout “The Deathly Hallows”: we are made to see that kindly Dumbledore, sinister Severus Snape and perhaps even the awful Muggle cousin Dudley Dursley may be more complicated than they initially seem, that all of them, like Harry, have hidden aspects to their personalities, and that choice — more than talent or predisposition — matters most of all.
It is Ms. Rowling’s achievement in this series that she manages to make Harry both a familiar adolescent — coping with the banal frustrations of school and dating — and an epic hero, kin to everyone from the young King Arthur to Spider-Man and Luke Skywalker. This same magpie talent has enabled her to create a narrative that effortlessly mixes up allusions to Homer, Milton, Shakespeare and Kafka, with silly kid jokes about vomit-flavored candies, a narrative that fuses a plethora of genres (from the boarding-school novel to the detective story to the epic quest) into a story that could be Exhibit A in a Joseph Campbell survey of mythic archetypes.
In doing so, J. K. Rowling has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum’s Oz or J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, a world so minutely imagined in terms of its history and rituals and rules that it qualifies as an alternate universe, which may be one reason the “Potter” books have spawned such a passionate following and such fervent exegesis. With this volume, the reader realizes that small incidents and asides in earlier installments (hidden among a huge number of red herrings) create a breadcrumb trail of clues to the plot, that Ms. Rowling has fitted together the jigsaw-puzzle pieces of this long undertaking with Dickensian ingenuity and ardor. Objects and spells from earlier books — like the invisibility cloak, Polyjuice Potion, Dumbledore’s Pensieve and Sirius’s flying motorcycle — play important roles in this volume, and characters encountered before, like the house-elf Dobby and Mr. Ollivander the wandmaker, resurface, too.
The world of Harry Potter is a place where the mundane and the marvelous, the ordinary and the surreal coexist. It’s a place where cars can fly and owls can deliver the mail, a place where paintings talk and a mirror reflects people’s innermost desires. It’s also a place utterly recognizable to readers, a place where death and the catastrophes of daily life are inevitable, and people’s lives are defined by love and loss and hope — the same way they are in our own mortal world.
Posted on Thu, Jul. 19, 2007
By JILL LAWLESS
The Associated Press
EDINBURGH, Scotland: Harry Potter’s life hangs in the balance. Millions of fans are holding their breath. Meanwhile, his creator is baking a cake — and keeping her secret.
On Saturday, readers around the globe will learn the schoolboy wizard’s fate with the publication of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series. Will Harry defeat his evil nemesis, Lord Voldemort, and restore order to the wizarding world? Will he die in the attempt, as many fans fear — and as Rowling, an expert narrative tease, has hinted?
“Harry’s story comes to a definite end in book seven,” is all she will say a few days before publication, serving up tea and home-baked sponge cake in her comfortable Edinburgh house. Writing the final words of the saga felt “like a bereavement.”
That sounds ominously final. So have we really seen the last of the staff and students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?
“Because the world is so big, there would be room to do other stuff,” Rowling says carefully. “I am not planning to do that, but I’m not going to say I’m never going to do it.”
Rowling (her name rhymes with bowling, rather than howling), looking relaxed in jeans and a sweater, shoulder-length blonde hair stylishly cut, has wildly mixed emotions at leaving behind the character she conjured up during a train journey across England in 1990: a neglected, bespectacled orphan who learns on his 11th birthday that he is a wizard.
She’s enjoying the absence of pressure from publishers and fans clamoring for the next installment in Harry’s adventures. And she’s reveling in the chance to focus on normal life with her husband and three children.
But after finishing the last book, “I felt terrible for a week.”
“The first two days in particular, it was like a bereavement, even though I was pleased with the book. And then after a week that cloud lifted and I felt quite lighthearted, quite liberated,” she says.
“Finishing is emotional because the books have been so wrapped up with my life. It’s almost impossible not to finish and look back to where I was when I started.”
It has been an extraordinary journey. When Rowling created Harry Potter, she was a struggling single mother, writing in cafes to save on the heating bill at home. Now, at 41, she is the richest woman in Britain — worth $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine — with houses in Edinburgh, London and the Scottish countryside.
Her first book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” was published in 1997, with a print run of less than 1,000. Rowling’s publisher suggested she use gender-neutral initials rather than her first name, Joanne, to give the book a better chance with boys. Lacking a middle name, she took the K from her paternal grandmother, Kathleen.
By the time the book appeared in the United States in 1998 — as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” — Harry was on his way to becoming a publishing phenomenon.
The six Potter books have sold some 325 million copies in 64 languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek. “Deathly Hallows” has an initial print run of 12 million in the United States alone; more than 2 million copies have been ordered from Internet retailer Amazon.
The novels have produced five movies, mountains of toys, a riot of Internet fan sites and scores of companion books — from academic studies to parodies to pop psychology. A theme park, complete with Hogwarts castle and Forbidden Forest, is to open in Orlando, Fla., in 2009.
The launch of each new book is now accompanied by choreographed chaos and military-level security. No book is sold until a minute past midnight on Saturday.
The series’ success has been “a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon,” said Joel Rickett, news editor of trade magazine The Bookseller. “It has brought a new generation to reading — got kids absorbed in huge hefty hardbacks the way they wouldn’t have been,” he said.
While some critics have dismissed the books as lightweight kiddie fare, others have been impressed by their moral complexity and darkening tone. Death haunts Harry Potter, who was orphaned at the age of 1 when Voldemort killed his parents. He loses his godfather Sirius Black in the fifth book and his beloved headmaster Dumbledore in the sixth. No wonder fans fear for Harry’s future.
Rowling was profoundly affected by the death of her own mother from multiple sclerosis in 1990 at the age of 45.
“My mum died six months into writing (the books), and I think that set the central theme — this boy dealing with loss,” Rowling says.
And she makes no apologies for exposing children to death.
“I think children are very scared of this stuff even if they haven’t experienced it, and I think the way to meet that is head-on,” she says. “I absolutely believe, as a writer and as a parent, that the solution is not to pretend things don’t happen but to examine them in a loving, safe way.”
Rowling says her success has been “the experience of a lifetime.” But it also has brought an intense level of pressure, scrutiny and criticism. In the United States, her book tours have attracted thousands of screaming children, but also death threats. Some Christians have called for the books to be banned, claiming they promote witchcraft.
But it’s only now that she realizes just how intense the pressure has been at the center of the Harry Potter whirlwind.
“I was very lonely with it,” she says. “It’s not like being in a pop group, where at least there would be three or four other people who knew what it was like to be on the inside. Only I knew what it was like to be generating this world as it became bigger and bigger and bigger and more and more people were invested in it.
After producing a book a year between 1997 and 2000, Rowling took a break. There was a three-year gap between the fourth book, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” published in 2003. During the gap, Rowling met and married Neil Murray, a Scottish doctor. They live in Edinburgh with their children David, 4, and Mackenzie, 2, as well as Jessica, Rowling’s daughter from her first marriage to a Portuguese journalist.
Rowling now seems reconciled to her success. She says she lives a normal life and is rarely recognized in the street, although her graystone town house on a tree-lined street is protected by an 8-foot stone wall and iron security gates. Like the neighborhood — a leafy literary enclave that’s also home to crime novelist Ian Rankin and “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” writer Alexander McCall Smith — the house exudes solid affluence, rather than extravagance.
The modestly sized lawn holds a soccer net and a colorful plastic jumble of children’s toys. In the tidy family room, are crowded bookshelves, an aquarium, photo albums and board games — the trappings of any middle-class family’s life.
Rowling predicts that some of Harry’s fans will dislike “Deathly Hallows.” But she is proud of it. “The final book is what it was always supposed to be, and so I feel very at peace with that fact,” she says.
As for the future, she says she has no plans.
“I can never write anything as popular again,” she said. “Lightning does not strike in the same place twice.
“I’ll do exactly what I did with Harry — I’ll write what I really want to write, and if it’s something similar, that’s OK, and if it’s something very different, that’s OK.
“I just really want to fall in love with an idea again, and go with that.”
Martin Durkin says his documentary has survived last week's roasting by the ABC
July 21 2007
WHEN I agreed to make The Great Global Warming Swindle, I was warned a middle-class fatwa would be placed on my head.
So I wasn't shocked that the film was attacked on the same night it was broadcast on ABC television last week, although I was impressed at the vehemence of the attack. I was more surprised, and delighted, by the response of the Australian public.
The ABC studio assault, led by Tony Jones, was so vitriolic it appears to have backfired. We have been inundated with messages of support, and the ABC, I am told, has been flooded with complaints. I have been trying to understand why.
First, the ferocity of the attack, I think, revealed the intolerance and defensiveness of the global warming camp. Why were Jones and co expending such energy and resources attacking one documentary? We are told the global warming theory is robust. They say you'd have to be off your chump to disagree. We have been assured for years, in countless news broadcasts and column inches, that it's definitely true. So why bother to stamp so aggressively on the one foolish documentary-maker - who clearly must be as mad as a snake - who steps out of line?
I think viewers may also have wondered (reasonably) why the theory of global warming has not been subjected to this barrage of critical scrutiny by the media. After all, it's the theory of global warming, not my foolish little film, that is turning public and corporate policy on its head.
The apparent unwillingness of Jones and others at the ABC to give airtime to a counterargument, the tactics used to minimise the ostensible damage done by the film, the evident animosity towards those who questioned global warming: all of this served to give viewers a glimpse of what it was like for scientists who dared to disagree with the hallowed doctrine.
Why are the global warmers so zealous? After a year of arguing with people about this, I am convinced that it's because global warming is first and foremost a political theory. It is an expression of a whole middle-class political world view. This view is summed up in the oft-repeated phrase "we consume too much". I have also come to the conclusion that this is code for "they consume too much". People who believe it tend also to think that exotic foreign places are being ruined because vulgar oiks can afford to go there in significant numbers, they hate plastic toys from factories and prefer wooden ones from craftsmen, and so on.
All this backward-looking bigotry has found perfect expression in the idea of man-made climate disaster. It has cohered a bunch of disparate reactionary prejudices (anti-car, anti-supermarkets, anti-globalisation) into a single unquestionable truth and cause. So when you have a dig at global warming, you commit a grievous breach of social etiquette. Among the chattering classes you're a leper.
But why are the supporters of global warming so defensive? After all, the middle classes are usually confident, bordering on smug.
As I found when I examined the basic data, they have plenty to be defensive about. Billions of dollars of public money have been thrown at global warming, yet the hypothesis is crumbling around their ears.
To the utter dismay of the global warming lobby, the world does not appear to be getting warmer. According to their own figures (from the UN-linked Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the temperature has been static or slightly declining since 1998. The satellite data confirms this. This is clearly awkward. The least one should expect of global warming is that the Earth should be getting warmer.
Then there's the ice-core data, the jewel in the crown of global warming theory. It shows there's a connection between carbon dioxide and temperature: see Al Gore's movie. But what Gore forgets to mention is that the connection is the wrong way around; temperature leads, CO2 follows.
Then there's the precious "hockey stick". This was the famous graph that purported to show global temperature flat-lining for 1000 years, then rising during the 19th and 20th centuries. It magicked away the Medieval warm period and made the recent warming look alarming, instead of just part of the general toing and froing of the Earth's climate.
But then researchers took the computer program that produced the hockey stick graph and fed it random data. Bingo, out popped hockey stick shapes every time. (See the report by Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Virginia and others.)
In a humiliating climb down, the IPCC has had to drop the hockey stick from its reports, though it can still be seen in Gore's movie.
And finally, there are those pesky satellites. If greenhouse gases were the cause of warming, then the rate of warming should have been greater, higher up in the Earth's atmosphere (the bit known as the troposphere). But all the satellite and balloon data says the exact opposite. In other words, the best observational data we have flatly contradicts the whole bally idea of man-made climate change.
They concede that CO2 cannot have caused the warming at the beginning of the 20th century, which was greater and steeper than the recent warming. They can't explain the cooling from 1940 to the mid-'70s. What are they left with? Some mild warming in the '80s and '90s that does not appear to have been caused by greenhouse gases.
The whole damned theory is in tatters. No wonder they're defensive.
The man-made global warming parade, on one level, has been a phenomenal success. There isn't a political party or important public body or large corporation that doesn't feel compelled to pay lip service. There are scientists and journalists (a surprising number) who have built careers championing the cause. There's more money going into global warming research than there is chasing a cure for cancer. Many important people and institutions have staked their reputations on it. There's a lot riding on this theory. And it has bugger-all to do with sea levels. That is why the warmers greeted my film with red glowing eyes.
Last week on the ABC they closed ranks. They were not interested in a genuine debate. They wanted to shut it down. And thousands of wonderful, sane, bolshie Australian viewers saw right through it.
God bless Australia. The DVD will be out soon.
Friday, July 20, 2007
July 17, 2007
July 19, 2007
Patrick J. Buchanan
Responding to the call of Pope Urban II at Claremont in 1095, the Christian knights of the First Crusade set out for the Holy Land. In 1099, Jerusalem was captured. As their port in Palestine, the Crusaders settled on Acre on the Mediterranean.
There they built the great castle that was overrun by Saladin in 1187, but retaken by Richard the Lion-Hearted in 1191. Acre became the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the stronghold of the Crusader state, which fell to the Mameluks in a bloody siege in 1291. The Christians left behind were massacred.
The ruins of Acre are now a tourist attraction.
Any who have visited this last outpost of Christendom in the Holy Land before Gen. Allenby marched into Jerusalem in 1917 cannot—on reading of the massive U.S. embassy rising in Baghdad—but think of Acre.
At a cost of $600 million, with walls able to withstand mortar and rocket fire, and space to accommodate 1,000 Americans, this mammoth embassy, largest on earth, will squat on the banks of the Tigris inside the Green Zone.
But, a decade hence, will the U.S. ambassador be occupying this imperial compound? Or will it be like the ruins of Acre?
What raises the question is a sense the United States, this time, is truly about to write off Iraq as a lost cause.
The Republican lines on Capitol Hill are crumbling. Starting with Richard Lugar, one GOP senator after another has risen to urge a drawdown of U.S. forces and a diplomatic solution to the war.
But this is non-credible. How can U.S. diplomats win at a conference table what 150,000 U.S. troops cannot secure on a battlefield?
Though Henry Kissinger was an advocate of this unnecessary war, he is not necessarily wrong when he warns of "geopolitical calamity." Nor is Ryan Crocker, U.S. envoy in Iraq, necessarily wrong when he says a U.S. withdrawal may be the end of the America war, but it will be the start of bloodier wars in Iraq and across the region.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also warns of the perils of a rapid withdrawal: "The dangers vary from civil war to dividing the country to regional wars ... the danger is huge. Until the Iraqi forces and institutions complete their readiness, there is a responsibility on the U.S. and other countries to stand by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to help build up their capabilities." [U.S. Envoy Offers Grim Prediction on Iraq Pullout, By John F. Burns and Alyssa J. Rubin ,New York Times, July 10, 2007]
In urging a redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq, and a new focus on diplomacy, Lugar listed four strategic goals. Prevent creation of a safe haven for terrorists. Prevent sectarian war from spilling out into the broader Middle East. Prevent Iran's domination of the region. Limit the loss of U.S. credibility through the region and world as a result of a failed mission in Iraq.
But how does shrinking the U.S. military power and presence in Iraq advance any of these goals?
Longtime critics of the war like Gen. William Odom say it is already lost, and fighting on will only further bleed the country and make the ultimate price even higher. The general may be right in saying it is time to cut our losses. But we should take a hard look at what those losses may be.
It is a near certainty the U.S.-backed government will fall and those we leave behind will suffer the fate of our Vietnamese and Cambodian friends in 1975. As U.S. combat brigades move out, contractors, aid workers and diplomats left behind will be more vulnerable to assassination and kidnapping. There could be a stampede for the exit and a Saigon ending in the Green Zone.
The civil and sectarian war will surely escalate when we go, with Iran aiding its Shia allies and Sunni nations aiding the Sunnis. A breakup of the country seems certain. Al-Qaida will claim it has run the U.S. superpower out of Iraq and take the lessons it has learned to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. The Turks, with an army already on the border, will go in to secure their interests in not having the Kurdish PKK operating from Iraq and in guaranteeing there is no independent Kurdistan. What will America do then?
As for this country, the argument over who is responsible for the worst strategic debacle in American history will be poisonous.
With a U.S. defeat in Iraq, U.S. prestige would plummet across the region. Who will rely on a U.S. commitment for its security? Like the British and French before us, we will be heading home from the Middle East.
What we are about to witness is how empires end.
Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com.
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The Kansas City Star
Honestly, I don’t wish jail on the people who despise me the most. Incarceration is that dehumanizing.
So forgive me for lacking passion about the guilt, innocence and/or punishment of one-time franchise quarterback Michael Vick for his alleged involvement in a dogfighting ring. Hell — given that the state, if inclined, can make a blind witness’ vision 20/20 — I’m even willing to give Vick his presumption of innocence.
Why not? He is an American citizen, last I checked, and we don’t need to look any further than Duke lacrosse to see what can happen to a prosecutor when the media spotlight descends on a criminal case.
Nope. My desire is to see Vick evolve as a human being and for his troubles to serve as yet another wake-up call for black athletes to reject the hip-hop/prison culture that glorifies much of the negative behavior and attitude that has eroded the once-dignified and positive reputation of African-American athletes.
As much as I love dogs — and I really do have an affinity for them — this case primarily repulses me because I believe Vick got involved with breeding vicious pit bulls because rap-music culture made it the cool thing to do.
Listen, I don’t want PETA supporters upset with me. Animal cruelty is intolerable. But I’m wondering what could turn a human mind and heart so cold that a person would find pleasure in breeding dogs for cruel destruction in 2007.
Seriously, Vick didn’t do it for the money. The Atlanta Falcons gave him all the money he could ever hope to spend. Vick was involved in pit bull breeding (and quite possibly dogfighting) because he enjoyed it. He’s a product of a culture that makes the “profession” acceptable and honorable. It’s the same culture that has turned the dope dealer into mayor of the neighborhood.
This is a human tragedy, too.
It speaks to the grip the negative aspects of hip-hop culture have on young people. Vick is a millionaire athlete who has spent most of his NFL career trying to maintain his street cred. Despite lifetime financial security, Mike Vick stayed on the “grind,” hustling for that paper with his Bad Newz Kennels. Idiot.
Well, unless he plans on launching a rap career and releasing a solo “Dogfighting Was The Case,” I don’t see any of this ending well for Vick. Even if he’s not convicted or reaches a jail-evading plea bargain, Vick has destroyed his athletic reputation while trying to keep pace with T.I.
This is a cultural phenomenon that has swallowed a small percentage of African-American athletes, but a large enough percentage to significantly damage the overall perception of black, American-born athletes. As Dr. Harry Edwards told me two weeks ago, it only takes a few key people to hijack an entire culture.
N.W.A., the late-1980s rap group, hijacked hip-hop years ago, and calls to return it to something resembling decency and self-respect have fallen on Def Jam ear$. Allen Iverson and his sneaker/jersey sales hijacked the image of black professional athletes years ago, and out of fear of being labeled a racist or a sellout, few have even dared question the sanity of it … until now.
Now we can all see the stupidity. Gangsta-wannabe rappers masquerading as professional athletes is a public-relations nightmare waiting to tear apart sports franchises and leagues.
Vick’s employer is in an impossible position. The right thing for the Falcons to do is support Vick through his legal proceedings. But how can the organization? Vick is a human distraction now.
Atlanta has a new coaching staff that will find it nearly impossible to operate smoothly in the environment/media circus Vick has created for the organization.
Heck, even Al Sharpton and Russell Simmons joined in the castigation of Vick and dogfighting, penning a joint letter with PETA that was sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and all of Vick’s corporate sponsors. True, the letter wasn’t all that harsh, but the fact that Sharpton would in any way publicly hold a black person responsible for any action is historic. And, if you have a scorebook at home, we now know that Russell Simmons is adamantly opposed to the killing and brutalization of dogs, but he is in favor of the glorification of killing black men in music. I’m just passing that along without any editorial comment.
OK, where was I? Yes, the Falcons might as well name Paris Hilton cheerleading captain.
If Vick were to play this season, the fan hostility directed at Vick will engulf Atlanta’s home stadium.
Vick needs a paid leave of absence to sort out his legal problems. He shouldn’t be suspended or denied pay because the Falcons and the NFL have invested too much in Vick to treat him like Pacman Jones.
That’s right. I don’t believe in treating everyone the same. I believe in treating everyone fairly. Suspending Vick would be too prejudicial (legal term, not a race term) and inhibit his ability to receive a fair trial.
If he’s convicted of a felony, the Falcons probably have provisions within his contract that would grant them the right to release him and go after a portion of his signing bonus if they so choose.
Ray Lewis was at the scene of a double murder, failed initially to cooperate with police and eventually pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges. Ray used to be in love with his street cred, too. It took double-murder charges to knock some sense into one of the game’s best linebackers.
He evolved, and he’s certainly been an asset to the NFL ever since his evolution. Will the same thing happen to Michael Vick? I doubt it, but I certainly hope so.
To reach Jason Whitlock, call 816-234-4869 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.
July 20, 2007
The International Criminal Court recently issued warrants for the arrest of Ahmed Haroun, the minister for humanitarian affairs of Sudan, and Ali Kosheib, a leader of that country’s notorious janjaweed militia. The Sudanese government has refused to hand over the two for prosecution. Charges include murder, rape, torture and “imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty.” Severe deprivation of liberty is a euphemism for slavery. Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly observed not long ago that in Sudan, “slavery, sanctioned by religious zealots, ravaged the southern parts of the country and much of the west as well.”
Muslim slavers in the Sudan primarily enslave non-Muslims, and chiefly Christians. According to the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan (CASMAS), a human rights and abolitionist movement, “The current Khartoum government wants to bring the non-Muslim black South in line with Sharia law, laid down and interpreted by conservative Muslim clergy. The black animist and Christian South has been ravaged for many years of slave raids by Arabs from the north and east and resists Muslim religious rule and the perceived economic, cultural, and religious expansion behind it.”
The BBC reported in March 2007 that slave raids “were a common feature of Sudan’s 21-year north-south war, which ended in 2005….According to a study by the Kenya-based Rift Valley Institute, some 11,000 young boys and girls were seized and taken across the internal border -- many to the states of South Darfur and West Kordofan….Most were forcibly converted to Islam, given Muslim names and told not to speak their mother tongue.” One modern-day Sudanese Christian slave, James Pareng Alier, was kidnapped and enslaved when he was twelve years old. Religion was a major element of his ordeal: “I was forced to learn the Koran and re-baptised “Ahmed.” They told me that Christianity was a bad religion. After a time we were given military training and they told us we would be sent to fight.” Alier has no idea of his family’s whereabouts. But while non-Muslims slaves are often forcibly converted to Islam, their conversion does not lead to their freedom. Mauritanian anti-slavery campaigner Boubacar Messaoud explains: “It’s like having sheep or goats. If a woman is a slave, her descendants are slaves.”
Anti-slavery crusaders like Messaoud have great difficulty working against this attitude because it is rooted in the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example. The Muslim prophet Muhammad owned slaves, and like the Bible, the Qur’an takes the existence of slavery for granted, even as it enjoins the freeing of slaves under certain circumstances, such as the breaking of an oath: “Allah will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom” (5:89). But while the freeing of a slave or two here and there is encouraged, the institution itself is never questioned. The Qur’an even gives a man permission to have sexual relations with his slave girls as well as with his wives: “The believers must (eventually) win through, those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, for (in their case) they are free from blame…” (23:1-6). A Muslim is not to have sexual relations with a woman who is married to someone else – except a slave girl: “And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you” (4:24).
In the past, as today, most slaves in Islam were non-Muslims who had been captured during jihad warfare. The pioneering scholar of the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic societies, Bat Ye’or, explains the system that developed out of jihad conquest:
The jihad slave system included contingents of both sexes delivered annually in conformity with the treaties of submission by sovereigns who were tributaries of the caliph. When Amr conquered Tripoli (Libya) in 643, he forced the Jewish and Christian Berbers to give their wives and children as slaves to the Arab army as part of their jizya [tax on non-Muslims].
From 652 until its conquest in 1276, Nubia was forced to send an annual contingent of slaves to Cairo. Treaties concluded with the towns of Transoxiana, Sijistan, Armenia, and Fezzan (Maghreb) under the Umayyads and Abbasids stipulated an annual dispatch of slaves from both sexes. However, the main sources for the supply of slaves remained the regular raids on villages within the dar-al-harb [House of War, i.e., non-Islamic regions] and the military expeditions which swept more deeply into the infidel lands, emptying towns and provinces of their inhabitants.
Historian Speros Vryonis observes that “since the beginning of the Arab razzias [raids] into the land of Rum [the Byzantine Empire], human booty had come to constitute a very important portion of the spoils.” As they steadily conquered more and more of Anatolia, the Turks reduced many of the Greeks and other non-Muslims there to slave status: “They enslaved men, women, and children from all major urban centers and from the countryside where the populations were defenseless.” The Indian historian K. S. Lal states that wherever jihadists conquered a territory, “there developed a system of slavery peculiar to the clime, terrain and populace of the place.” When Muslim armies invaded India, “its people began to be enslaved in droves to be sold in foreign lands or employed in various capacities on menial and not-so-menial jobs within the country.”
Slaves faced pressure to convert to Islam. In an analysis of Islamic political theories, Patricia Crone notes that after a jihad battle was concluded, “male captives might be killed or enslaved…Dispersed in Muslim households, slaves almost always converted, encouraged or pressurized [sic] by their masters, driven by a need to bond with others, or slowly, becoming accustomed to seeing things through Muslim eyes even if they tried to resist.” Thomas Pellow, an Englishman who was enslaved in Morocco for twenty-three years after being captured as a cabin boy on a small English vessel in 1716, was tortured until he accepted Islam. For weeks he was beaten and starved, and finally gave in after his torturer resorted to “burning my flesh off my bones by fire, which the tyrant did, by frequent repetitions, after a most cruel manner.”
Slavery was taken for granted throughout Islamic history, as it was, of course, in the West as well up until relatively recent times. Yet while the European and American slave trade get stern treatment attention from historians (as well as from reparations advocates and guilt-ridden politicians), the Islamic slave trade, which actually lasted longer and brought suffering to a larger number of people, is virtually ignored. (This fact magnifies the irony of Islam being presented to American blacks as the egalitarian alternative to the “white man’s slave religion” of Christianity.) While historians estimate that the transatlantic slave trade, which operated between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, involved around 10.5 million people, the Islamic slave trade in the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean areas began in the seventh century and lasted into the nineteenth, and involved 17 million people.
And when pressure came to end slavery, it moved from Christendom into Islam, not the other way around. There was no Muslim William Wilberforce or William Lloyd Garrison. In fact, when the British government in the nineteenth century adopted the view of Wilberforce and the other abolitionists and began to put pressure on pro-slavery regimes, the Sultan of Morocco was incredulous. “The traffic in slaves,” he noted, “is a matter on which all sects and nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam...up to this day.” He said that he was “not aware of its being prohibited by the laws of any sect” and that the very idea that anyone would question its morality was absurd: “No one need ask this question, the same being manifest to both high and low and requires no more demonstration than the light of day.”
However, it was not the unanimity of human practice, but the words of the Qur’an and Muhammad that were decisive in stifling abolitionist movements within the Islamic world. Slavery was abolished only as a result of Western pressure; the Arab Muslim slave trade in Africa was ended by the force of British arms in the nineteenth century.
Besides being practiced more or less openly today in Sudan and Mauritania, there is evidence that slavery still continues beneath the surface in some majority-Muslim countries as well -- notably Saudi Arabia, which only abolished slavery in 1962, Yemen and Oman, both of which ended legal slavery in 1970, and Niger, which didn’t abolish slavery until 2004. In Niger, the ban is widely ignored, and as many as one million people remain in bondage. Slaves are bred, often raped, and generally treated like animals.
A shadow cast by the strength and perdurability of Islamic slavery can be seen in instances where Muslims have managed to import this institution to the United States. A Saudi named Homaidan Al-Turki, for instance, was sentenced in September 2006 to 27 years to life in prison, for keeping a woman as a slave in his home in Colorado. For his part, Al-Turki claimed that he was a victim of anti-Muslim bias. He told the judge: “Your honor, I am not here to apologize, for I cannot apologize for things I did not do and for crimes I did not commit. The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors was the focal point of the prosecution.” The following month, an Egyptian couple living in Southern California received a fine and prison terms, to be followed by deportation, after pleading guilty to holding a ten-year-old girl as a slave. And in January 2007, an attaché of the Kuwaiti embassy in Washington, Waleed Al Saleh, and his wife were charged with keeping three Christian domestic workers from India in slave-like conditions in al-Saleh’s Virginia home. One of the women remarked: “I believed that I had no choice but to continue working for them even though they beat me and treated me worse than a slave.”
All this indicates that the problem of Islamic slavery is not restricted to recent events in the Sudan; it is much larger and more deeply rooted. The United Nations and human rights organizations have noted the phenomenon, but nevertheless little has been done to move decisively against those who still hold human beings in bondage, or aid or tolerate others doing so. The UN has tried to place peacekeeping forces in Darfur, over the objections of the Sudanese government, but its remonstrations against slavery in Sudan and elsewhere have likewise not resulted in significant government action against the practice. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also noted the problem, but as HRW observes, “the government of Sudan has stonewalled on the issue of slavery, claiming it was a matter of rival tribes engaging in hostage taking, over which it had little control. That is simply untrue, as myriad reports coming out of southern Sudan have made abundantly clear.” For Islamic slavery to disappear, a powerful state would have to move against it decisively, not with mere words, and accept no equivocation of half-measures. In today’s international geopolitical climate, nothing could be less likely.
 Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996, p. 108.
 Speros Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century, Berkeley, 1971. P. 174-5. Quoted in Bostom, Legacy of Jihad, p. 87.
 K. S. Lal, Muslim Slave System in Medieval India, Aditya Prakashan, 1994. P. 9.
 Patricia Crone, God’s Rule: Government and Islam, Columbia University Press, 2004. Pp. 371-372. Quoted in Bostom, Legacy of Jihad, p. 86.
 Giles Milton, White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam’s One Million White Slaves, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. P. 84.
 Andrew Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus, 2005, pp. 89-90.
 Quoted in Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 1994. Reprinted at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/med/lewis1.html.
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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of six books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
July 19, 2007
Dog pens and houses are empty in a fenced area behind a home owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in Surry, Va., in this May 31, 2007 file photo.
Yes, yes, I know. An indictment is not a conviction.
We need to observe due process. I know that, too.
However . . .
I'm having a hard time looking at the rather handsome face of Michael Vick right now. I can tell you that much. What he and his codefendants are accused of are despicable acts. I realize that dogs are not human beings and that, in the grandest scheme of things, people should focus more on the Ray Lewis murder coverup and the Pacman Jones involvement in a man becoming paralyzed for life, but the idea that in this day and age someone would organize dogfighting is utterly repugnant.
Somebody did something here, and according to the 18-page indictment issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, one of those somebodies was the starting quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. By the way, you may know him as Michael Vick, but the indictment claims that in the shadowy dogfighting world in which he is alleged to have been immersed, he was known as "Ookie."
Said indictment said the foursome consisted of Purnell A. Peace, a.k.a."P-Funk" or "Funk"; Quanis L. Phillips, a.k.a. "Q;" and Tony Taylor, a.k.a. "T."
The indictment makes for some powerful and sickening reading, and if you ask if I am outraged in part because I am a dog owner, the answer is yes, and so what? It's just an extra layer of outrage. I'd like to think I'd be working myself up into this agitated state even if the animals in question were, well, cats.
State and Federal officials carry out coolers of evidence to a truck as they search the grounds behind the home owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in Smithfield, Va., in this July 6, 2007 file photo. During an April 25 drug raid at the property, authorities seized 66 dogs, including 55 pit bulls, and equipment commonly used in dog fighting. A federal grand jury in Virginia indicted Vick on Tuesday, July 17, 2007, in its investigation of illegal dog fighting.
As to what it could all lead to, the answer to that one is very simple: hard time. If Michael Vick -- excuse me, "Ookie" -- and his fellow defendants are convicted of all charges, they could be looking at something like six years in the pen. Given that Vick is in the middle of a $130 million contract and is also a major endorser, participation in this venture would have to be put in the "bad judgment" category, wouldn't you think?
Lester Munson of ESPN.com is probably the foremost American sports investigative journalist, and he paints a pretty grim picture for Ookie and friends. "Vick is in real trouble," Munson says, and he goes on from there. The government, he points out, is on a roll, having just taken out the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, media mogul Conrad Black, and former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, all of whom, as Munson puts it, "thought they could explain their way out from under federal charges. And all three were convicted." There are, Munson reminds us, many skilled, clever defense lawyers out there. Ookie will need one or two. Fortunately for Ookie, he can afford them.
My guess is that Roger Goodell has an opinion on all this.
The new NFL commissioner has established himself as a champion of internal law and order during his brief tenure, but this case is different than the others. It was relatively easy to put down incorrigible recidivists such as Pacman Jones and Chris Henry on that basis alone. Enough, the commissioner said, was enough. Police encounter after police encounter after police encounter will no longer be tolerated, even if one or two of them is for jaywalking. We prefer that your name be confined to the sports page, so we're going to have you take a timeout. Even the Players Association recognizes that the commissioner had a right to protect the league's image.
Eris Banks of Conyers, Ga., shows his support for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick during a baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and Cincincinnati Reds in Atlanta, Wednesday, July 18, 2007. Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation so grisly the losers either died in the pit or sometimes were electrocuted, drowned, hanged or shot.
Now Goodell is confronted with Vick, charged with an odious crime against civilized society. He's actually kind of a half previous offender, what with that nonsense about the secret compartment in his water bottle (Did you, like me, say, "What?"). But no one cares any longer about the stupid water bottle. We're all interested in this dogfighting business, and if you're Goodell, you must decide what, if anything (it's just an indictment, remember), to do with the Falcons' starting quarterback, whose jersey just happens to be the No. 2 seller going.
If you've read the indictment, you know that, at the very least, Michael/Ookie has a lot of 'splainin' to do. His initial response to the charge was that, well, yeah, I own the house, but I'm never there, and how can I monitor what my cousin was doing? Then neighbors were quoted as saying they've actually seen quite a lot of Michael/Ookie in the six years since he purchased the property, so we'll see where that goes.
What the feds say in the indictment is that Michael/Ookie was thoroughly involved in every phase of the dogfighting operation from, as Munson puts it, "from beginning to end." And if that happens to be the case, the only question you will have when it's all over and they're all convicted is, "Why are these people only getting six years?"
This is going to be very messy. I'm not saying that people excuse things such as covering up a murder or an innocent bouncer winding up paralyzed, but they are a sad, regrettable byproduct of other people's actions. It amazes me that Ray Lewis has skated away from an incident in which someone was killed as smoothly and deftly as he has. Either people have forgiven him or they don't want to know.
But the idea of being an active participant in the horrific act of dogs tearing each other apart for "sport" and betting purposes will not go down well in a country that has an unquenchable love affair with its household pets, dogs in particular. All dog owners know how gut-wrenching it is when your beloved pet is either killed or must be put down. We are unable to wrap our heads around the idea of dogs attempting to kill each other for someone's amusement, and we cannot remotely relate to anyone who enjoys it.
I really cannot imagine a scenario in which Goodell will give his approval to someone accused of this loathsome crime representing his league. As justification, he can invoke the "Common Sense" or "Too Hot To Handle" clause inherent in his job description. And I cannot imagine there would be anything in this for Gene Upshaw. The Players Association needs this?
In a best-case scenario, the Falcons will make any Goodell decision moot by removing Vick from uniform, effective immediately. It's just common sense. At the very least, I foresee the largest People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protests yet known wherever the Falcons play (or train). Ordinarily, I find the PETA people rather extreme and preposterous, but they would find themselves with countless new allies on this issue.
If owner Arthur Blank is going to run the Falcons with any integrity, he will distance himself and his organization from this business ASAP.
There is no competition issue. His team isn't going to the Super Bowl, with or without Michael Vick. Mr. Blank can't hide behind legalities or pay attention to any potential squawking from his new coach, Bobby Petrino. If the Falcons wind up with some empty seats as a result of losing Vick, Goodell can send him a check from the petty cash drawer.
Yes, yes, it's just an indictment.
Read it, please. It's easily available. See what happened to the dogs involved. It's an indictment, all right.
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
James Gandolfini, left, Edie Falco and Robert Iler in "The Sopranos," which ended its storied run on HBO.
By JACQUES STEINBERG
Published: July 19, 2007
A month after fading abruptly to black, “The Sopranos” received Emmy nominations today for best dramatic series and for the performances of five of its principal actors, including James Gandolfini and Edie Falco.
Also prominent on the list of this year’s Emmy nominees, which were announced this morning in Hollywood, were two new NBC series, “Heroes” and “30 Rock” (and two stars of “30 Rock,” Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin), as well as a new ABC comedy, “Ugly Betty,” and “Broken Trail,” an AMC miniseries starring Robert Duvall.
When the 59th Annual Emmy Awards are presented on Sept. 16, “The Sopranos” and “Heroes” will be competing against three other nominees for best dramatic series: “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC, “House” (Fox) and “Boston Legal” (ABC).
In the category of best actor in a drama, Mr. Gandolfini, whose Tony Soprano may or may not have survived the series’ final act, will square off against Hugh Laurie of “House”; Denis Leary of “Rescue Me” (FX); James Spader of “Boston Legal” and Kiefer Sutherland of “24” on Fox.
In addition to Ms. Falco, the nominees for best actress in a dramatic series are Sally Field for “Brothers and Sisters” (ABC); Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer” (TNT); Minnie Driver, “The Riches” (FX); Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC) and Patricia Arquette, “Medium” (NBC).
Joining “30 Rock” and “Ugly Betty” as nominees for best comedy series are “Entourage” (HBO); “The Office” (NBC) and “Two and a Half Men” (CBS).
The nomination of Mr. Baldwin for best actor in a comedy series was something of a surprise — not because of his scene-chewing performance as the television executive Jack Donaghy, which was widely praised by critics, but because of the negative publicity he received earlier this year when an angry voice mail message he left for his teenage daughter was widely disseminated on the Internet.
His competition in the category includes an actor playing another officious boss on NBC, Steve Carell of “The Office”; Tony Shalhoub for “Monk” (USA); Ricky Gervais, “Extras” (HBO) and Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men.”
Ms. Fey, who also created “30 Rock,” will be competing for best actress in a comedy series against America Ferrera, “Ugly Betty”; Felicity Huffman, “Desperate Housewives” (ABC); Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (CBS) and Mary-Louise Parker , “Weeds” (Showtime).
The most-nominated movies or miniseries were “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” on HBO, with 17 in all, and “Broken Trail,” the first original miniseries produced by AMC, more formally known as American Movie Classics, with 16.
Among all series, “The Sopranos” was the most nominated, with 15, including nominations for best supporting actress for Lorraine Bracco, who played Tony’s psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi, and for Aida Turturro, who played his sister. Michael Imperioli, who played Tony’s nephew Christopher, whose death in a car accident was hastened by Tony, was nominated in the category of best supporting actor.
With 11 nominations, “Ugly Betty” led the pack among the major networks’ series, followed by “Grey’s Anatomy” and “30 Rock,” which each received 10.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Just ask yourself this question: Do you think he knew what was going on?
For a moment, let’s forget about the 18-page indictment, which names Michael Vick 51 times.
Is there really any way possible that he didn’t know?
Can a person be that oblivious? These are his friends. This is his house. Did he go there, even if rarely, and NEVER look out the back window and say, “What’s with those little black houses in the yard?” Did he never see any dog-training equipment? Or blood splatters? Did he never notice receipts for medicine or vet visits or “rape stands” or pry bars or, like a million bags of dog food?
Did he never once travel to this house of horrors on Moonlight Road and think, “Man. Sure is a lot of dog poop around here.”
He knew. Of course he knew. And that’s enough.
The Falcons are trying to figure out where to go with Michael Vick. Try this: Run in the other direction.
No more coddling. No more enabling. No more spinning. Just go.
The NFL may or may not suspend Vick before his trial. But owner Arthur Blank and this little enterprise of his shouldn’t wait for the mother ship to act.
Suspend Vick if you want to look tough and send a message to fans.
Announce Vick is going on an indefinite leave of absence if you want to seem compassionate and supporting, as if he was dealing with some rare disease or family emergency.
Just pick an exit strategy and move on.
He knew. Of course he knew. And when you know, you’re not just a good guy surrounded by bad people. When you know and do nothing, you’re one of them.
I don’t want to hear about due process right now. Would anybody in any other walk of life be allowed to continue working if these charges were leveled against him by the federal government?
A police officer being accused of assault would be put on administrative leave.
A truck driver accused of reckless driving would be suspended, pending charges.
A teacher accused of having an affair with a student would suddenly disappear.
If Blank doesn’t know what to do, he should ask himself this question: If this was a guy selling hammers at Home Depot and not your star quarterback, what would be your first move? I’m guessing it wouldn’t be a directive, “Go sell more hammers.”
This isn’t Mayberry or some backwoods county filing charges. This is: “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. MICHAEL VICK, a/k/a ‘Ookie,’ ” and three lesser-known bottom-feeders.
The federal government doesn’t hand these things out like parking tickets. Read the indictment.
Did I mention Vick was referenced 51 times?
If the Falcons don’t act now, let’s call this what it is: They want to win games. It wouldn’t be about letting the legal system play out, or standing behind Vick, because that’s certainly not what team’s initial statement read like (we’ll get to that shortly). It would only be about seeing Vick first on the depth chart and Joey Harrington second and Blank thinking, “Oy.” It would only be about thinking Vick can get you to the playoffs and Harrington can’t and maybe people will talk about something other than page 17 of the indictment: “In or about April 2007, PEACE, PHILLIPS and VICK executed approximately 8 dogs that did not perform well in ‘testing’ sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.”
For all of the club’s talk about the “Falcon Filter” and serving the community, doing nothing would prove the Falcons to be as shallow as any other franchise.
Just guessing: If this were a backup lineman, not the quarterback or the franchise cash machine, there would be no hesitation.
Do nothing and this should be the Falcons new slogan: “Do the right thing — when it’s convenient.”
The Falcons’ initial statement embraced generics. It referenced the indictment being “troubling,” the team being “tested,” officials being “disappointed,” but franchise being “prepared to deal with it.”
There was no, “Michael is innocent,” or, “We’re behind him.” The closest was the final sentence: “Our plan is to continue to do everything we can to support our players and coaches.”
Tuesday, July 17, 2007, 07:31 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
It’s no longer just an investigation. It’s an indictment. That isn’t to be confused with a conviction — the presumption of innocence still applies, or at least it should — but it’s now possible to wonder if Michael Vick’s career as a Falcon, once a bright and shining thing, is nearing its soiled and sorry end. It’s now possible to wonder if any of us has ever known the real Michael Vick.
An indictment means there’s a case against him. A case means a trial will be scheduled. A trial would mean he could go to jail.
An indictment also means Michael Vick has let a slew of people down. From Arthur Blank, who signed him to a new contract worth $130 million two days before Christmas in 2004; to Bobby Petrino, who came here largely because he wanted to coach him; to the teammates who put their trust in him; to every fan who has bought a No. 7 jersey and worn it with pride … none of those folks can look at Vick today the same way they did yesterday. The dynamics have changed. Reality has changed.
He’s no longer the guy who kept saying he was going to do the right things. He’s now the guy who has allegedly gotten one very big thing so wrong so often that a felony conspiracy charge has been brought against him. And while we must be mindful that an indictment offers only one side of the story and that all defendants are entitled to a vigorous defense, the 18 pages of this chilling document are, as my uncle Rob used to say, enough to make a grown man throw up.
From Page 4 of the indictment: “On or about June 29, 2001, Vick paid approximately $34,000 for the purchase of property located at 1915 Moonlight Road, Smithfield, Va. From this point forward, the defendants … used this property as the main staging area for housing and training the pit bulls involved in the dog fighting venture and hosting dog fights.”
On April 21, 2001, Vick had been drafted No. 1 overall by the Falcons.
From Page 12: “In or about March of 2003, [Purnell A.] Peace, after consulting with Vick about the losing female pit bull’s condition, executed the losing dog by wetting the dog down with water and electrocuting the animal.”
From Page 13: “In or about March of 2003, Vick retrieved a book bag from a vehicle containing approximately $23,000 in cash. The cash was provided to [cooperating witness] #2 as payment for winning both dog fight matches.”
On Jan. 4, 2003, Vick had led the Falcons to a playoff victory over Green Bay at storied Lambeau Field.
From Page 14: “In or about the fall of 2003, [the three other defendants] and Vick traveled from Atlanta, Ga., to South Carolina with a male pit bull named Magic to participate in a dog fight. … The purse of the dog fight was established at approximately $1,500 per side, for a total of approximately $3,000.”
On Aug. 16, 2003, Vick had broken his leg in an exhibition against the Baltimore Ravens. He wouldn’t return to play until Nov. 30 against Houston.
From Page 17: “In or about April of 2007, [two other defendants] and Vick executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in ‘testing’ sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.”
In April 2007, Vick was readying for his first mini-camp under his third NFL coach. He was a 26-year-old millionaire — since turned 27 — who had just walked away from a brush with authorities in the Miami airport.
He was, and is, old enough and smart enough to know right from wrong. He was, and is, old enough to have put aside childish (and potentially criminal) entanglements.
But here he is today, the lead sports story from coast to coast not because he has taken the Falcons to the Super Bowl but because he has been indicted for, of all things, conspiring to fight one animal against another. Here he is, once the brightest light in the Atlanta sports firmament, now just another fallen star.
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