Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Family Thing

I went up to Heber Springs to my cousin's house for Thanksgiving. It was the usual excellent event with plenty to eat, a bunch of kids running around and a golden retriever named Max. Norman Rockwell couldn't make this scene any more wholesome.

After the repast, people do different things. Some folks take a nap, some folks help clean up, some folks watch the football game and some folks fuck around with firearms. My brothers Dave and John, along with Uncle Howard and my cousin's husband Steve went out in front of the house where the cars were parked over to Dave's car. He had some stuff he wanted to show Steve.

The trunk of Dave's Buick was stuffed to the gills with handguns, a rifle, boxes of ammunition and bottles of whiskey. I don't think that my brother has taken to bootlegging or running guns and I don't think he has joined the militia. But he had a small arsenal back there for some reason that was by no means clear. But I am not one to ask questions of heavily armed men.

He gave Steve a .22 rifle that I believe was mine originally. Brother Bob believes that the scope on the spiteful little gun was his originally. I don't really remember and I don't much care. Steve seemed to be pleased with his new toy despite its provenance and, besides, I don't ask questions of heavily armed men.

Back in the house, one of the uncles said he saw driving in that Cousin Willard had a "For Sale" sign out in front of the pasture beside the old home place. This generated much discussion around the table as the consensus among the local folks was that Willard doesn't exactly own that land that he was offering to the public. His brother owned that land or so they thought. They turned to me to ask " Can he do that?"

"Well," I said. Being a lawyer, I always preface any opinion on the law, no matter how insignificant with "Wellllll." It helps create an illusion of gravitas.

" I could give you a quitclaim deed to the State Capitol," I said. "I would be just deeding you my interest which is zero. But this is why title insurance is part of God's plan."

I didn't say that if Willard told me the sun was coming up that I would have to call the National Weather Service to verify it. I didn't have to seeing who was the topic of conversation.

Mother always felt sorry for Willard, who bounced around doing various odd jobs throughout his career, from selling insurance to being the cook at the Cleburne County Jail. There was no word as to whether he was working off a sentence or what effect his culinary skills had on the local crime rate.

Anyway, Mother once told me back when I was in college that the reason Willard couldn't work was because he had narcolepsy which requires him to sleep during the day. This condition was the product of some rural mishap that occurred to him when he was a boy. Either the mule kicked him in the head or the barn fell on him or some shit.

"Gee Mom," I said. "And to think that I always thought he slept a lot because he drank beer for breakfast."

Oh, Willard is harmless enough. Except for the time he damn near killed his crazy wife from California.

Willard was married at one time to this very interesting woman from California named Anna. I don't know how Willard met her, much less talked her into moving to Quitman, but she lived there with her teenaged son. I never saw either one of them when they weren't wearing black. They were Goth back around 1985 before Goth had hit Arkansas.

Anyway, my brother John traveled rural Arkansas a lot for his job in those days and he decided to make a pit stop over at Willard's one day while blowing through town. When he got out he saw Willard standing on the porch with a shotgun. The picture window behind him was completely blown out.

Willard told John that it accidentally went off while he was cleaning it. Coincidentally, he just happened to be cleaning his shotgun on the other side of the window beneath which Anna was lying on the couch inside watching the stories as she did every afternoon.

Willard swore up and down it was an accident, that he really, really didn't know there was a round of buckshot in there despite the fact that he had handled guns all his life and knew better than to clean a gun he hadn't emptied first.

Oddly enough, Anna and her son left the next day. Willard never heard from her again until she served him with the divorce papers. Willard didn't say much about it except that he was impressed that he got a Summons from all the way from California.

Swapping such heartwarming family tales, as always, is a highlight of Thanksgiving. I'll save the one about one of the uncles evicting the tenant in the old home place one fine Christmas Eve with a .357 for next month.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving Message

And for something completely different, go to our affiliate http://strangepup.blogspot.com where you will see a video I put up there of William Burroughs-yes, that William Burroughs- giving his Thanksgiving benediction.

I love the Internet.

Peace Out.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


It is early afternoon on the day before Thanksgiving as I begin this post. The world of commerce is slowly winding down. It is a beautiful day here in Little Rock. The morning's chill has given in to the warmth of the sun. Rick's brother-in-law is in town. He wants to take him out for a round of golf and has asked me to join them. Sounds like a plan to me.

I don't much like the Holiday season but I'm OK with Thanksgiving. I'm not a big eater by nature but I like sampling the various vegetable dishes that are available as I don't really make them for myself although I ought to. Every year I say that I will do better in that regard and every year I don't.

I enjoy seeing my relatives. It still takes me aback when I survey the room and see the spaces where Uncle Bill, Aunt Jean and Mother used to be. Mother is still with us but she is not able to travel. Bob won't be there this year. Duty calls over at the hospital. John will be in Jonesboro. If David doesn't come, it will be just me. Which feels kind of strange because, even as given to solitude as I am, I'm not a "just me" person.

I don't know what I would do without my friends and loved ones both near and far. It is a comfort to me to know that when I lock myself out of the house-as I did last night once again-Steve will have the spare key over at his house safely nestled in a drawer under a set of rosary beads. PM and I are thinking about playing some tennis tomorrow. Neither of us have played in forever. Serious fans of the sport should avoid the Little Rock Racquet Club tomorrow in order to be spared this sacrilege. Jen's husband is in town for the week. It is good to hear the excitement in her voice when she talks about their plans. I've been checking with other folks, and them with me, to see who is going to be around after the festivities with both time and booze to share. Got to partner up when the liquor stores are closed. No, try as I might to delude myself to the contrary, I am not a "just me" person. I need these folks and they need me.

If the tennis thing doesn't work out , I'm sure I'll get up and run. Or maybe ride my bike. All the runners and walkers will be out early making room for dinner. We will greet each other along the way as we go by. Every year I meet someone new on Thanksgiving Day. A new boyfriend, a fiancee, a son. They all come out to run out on Kavanaugh on the morning of Thanksgiving. It's warm enough that I can sit out on the porch and drink my coffee while reading the paper. The odds are good that the little girl across the street will come join me. She has a new dog named Rudy. Rudy is of suspect lineage but she is proud of him nonetheless. Around 11 I will head for the country to "take the bird." If this year is like any other year, the phone will ring all along the way with folks calling in from all over.

I'll bring rolls that I got at the bakery as well as a couple of pies that I made. They aren't much good although my friend J praised them to heaven and back. I was feeling pretty good about my product until I was put to low shame last night as I watched her painstakingly frost a triple layer cake, the recipe of which she got out of some goddamned Junior League recipe book from back in Georgia. I think she has around 6 of them.

She confessed to being in the throes of doubt as to whether it was altogether meet and fair to frost the entire cake. And this was before she had wrestled with the Gordian knot of whether to garnish it with nuts. I told her that, back in Mabelvale where I came from, we didn't stand on ceremony too much and helped myself to another whiskey. It's funny. Being a guy, I made an absolute BFD about these sorry assed pies I concocted while half in the bag last Sunday night. J, being a small town Georgia girl, frets over the aesthetics of her handiwork. I know when I am whipped.

So what's there to say about Thanksgiving 2006? I had the occasion to catch up with an old friend I hadn't really talked to in 10-13 years the other day. She asked me how I was. This is what I told her.

" I am healthy. I am happy. I have a roof over my head and a job to go to. I have the best friends any man could hope to have. Ain't nobody got a perfect life. But all in all I have nothing to complain about."

And I am very thankful. May God forgive me whenever I forget how truly blessed I really am.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

I am something of a civil libertarian. Despite these philosophical leanings, as soon as I heard that OJ Simpson had written a book called "If I Did It" I confess to thinking how great it would be if both the 5th and 1st Amendments could be suspended for some people.

Some people just can't stay gone. Anna Nicole Smith, Boy George, Madonna, Britney. Insert your favorite completely useless recurring public figure here. You just can't get shed of some people. Just when you thought that it was safe to go back to Barnes and Nobel, "If I Did It" will appear on bookshelves everywhere on November 30th. In case you haven't heard, "If I Did It" is the "fictional" account by Simpson of how he "hypothetically" could have committed the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. Judith Regan, who published this damn thing, will interview him on Fox November 27th and 28th. You can watch OJ in case you get bored with football.
That's the thing about living in America. Just when you think that you have seen everything, something pops up that you could have never made up. At least not sober. One would think that after getting acquitted of those same murders, the last thing on God's green Earth OJ would want to discuss is how he might have done it. Even in hypothetical terms.

Not that this hypothetical confession will come as any great shock to most of us. Most right thinking people believe that Simpson did it, regardless of what the jury said on that fateful day in Los Angeles. The federal court jury that later scorched him for violating the rights of Simpson and Goldman certainly did.

Granted, publishing this book and doing the interviews don't present much in the way of serious legal consequences. It's not like the State of California can try him again for the Goldman-Simpson murders. Unless he confesses to killing somebody else, he doesn't have further prosecution to consider. He is pretty much judgment-proof despite enjoying a pretty good income stream. After getting rung up in federal court, OJ moved from California to Florida which is a well-known haven for deadbeats. Indeed, because of Florida's generous exemptions, neither his house nor his NFL pension can be seized. Evidently, his judgment creditors-otherwise referred to as "the victims' families"-cannot reach the 3.5 million dollars allegedly paid to him by HarperCollins for writing "If I Did It" as same is being parked in an "educational trust" for the children he had with Nicole. They can't get it out of his hide and they can't get it out of his wallet. Not fair maybe. But that's the way it is.

But think about that for a moment. Assuming this is all on the up and up, his kids' education will be financed by money their Dad got paid for writing a book about how he killed their mother. Is this a great country or what?

But still, all of this begs the question of why he would come out now and make this "confession," fictional though it may supposedly be.

Some "experts" are saying that it is not unusual for criminals to make confessions after the fact in terms of hypotheticals about crimes they have committed. Could be. I've certainly never heard anything like that before but could be. Of course, some people just make stuff up. I give you the recent example of John Mark Karr's recent"confession"that he killed JonBenet Ramsey. Regan says she wanted to publish the book as a way to deal with the domestic abuse she suffered during one of her marriages and to commemorate other victims of domestic violence. Which sounds like complete bullshit to me. I think her reasons aren't nearly as noble as all of that. Here's what I think.

One of my old law professors used to say, "If there's a need for something, it probably exists." HarperCollins doesn't make zillions of dollars by being stupid. It may not have any shame but it isn't stupid. It wouldn't have published "If I Did It" if it didn't know that it wasn't going to make millions. I don't think its any more complicated than that. If Hitler returned to Earth, he would wind up on "Oprah." We are forced to settle for OJ "theoretically"describing the violent murder of his wife and a young man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. HarperCollins rolls it out just in time for Christmas and the cash registers start smoking. What do you want to bet OJ does a book signing tour? The mind reels.

Some people just can't stay gone. And you can't much blame them. Sometimes, in this great land of ours there's no money to be made by in giving in to shame.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Like everywhere else, last Tuesday was Election Day here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest. I think that I am just about the only person I know that casts his ballot on Election Day. Most folks I know vote early or vote absentee. That's OK. But as for me, I love to get out on the day itself. Robert Frost once said that he never felt more like an American than when he was at a ballgame.

While God knows I can certainly relate to that, as far as I am concerned, I never feel more like an American than on Election Day. I like being out with the crowd. I enjoy seeing the supporters of the various candidates with their signs. I like walking from my house over to the little church where I vote. Maybe it is kinda hokey. But that's the way I like to do it.

Truth is, I don't get over to that part over the neighborhood anymore. Funny. As I left the church, I noticed Jack-o-Lanterns in the yard of a little house where I used to hang out back in a previous life. I tried to guess which boy did which pumpkin. I bet I guessed right.

Oh well. Everything changes. Except Election Day.

Reclamation Project- I noticed that the Rev. Ted Haggard fessed up to the congregation of the New Life Church. Without going into the gory details, he admitted to sexual immorality and other improprieties. He has turned himself over to a committee of "overseers" who are going to guide him through a "program with the goal of healing and restoration" for his life, his marriage and his family.

While I wish the overseers well in their attempt to rewire Haggard to where he no longer feels the need to scratch certain of those itches that got him into all of this trouble, I think they got their work cut out for them. After all, it is one thing to give in to that second piece of apple pie, which is about as sinful as most preachers I know get. It is quite another thing to hook up with a male prostitute. And that's not even taking into account Haggard's purchase of street drugs during some of these escapades. I mean that's sinnin' above and beyond the call of duty.

I am pretty sure that the response of, say, the United Methodist Church under similar circumstances would be to get rid of him. At least that has been the response in the two cases of which I am personally aware. They eventually let one guy back only to have to defrock him again when he went back to chasing skirts. The other one is still driving a truck.

But then again, most mainline denominations don't depend on the front man to keep the meat in the seats and the cash register smokin'. Haggard's a proven money maker. It is in their long term best interests to "restore" him to where he no longer feels the need to rent him some from time to time. He will be back once the heat fades.

Prediction: 2 years. Tops.

Life Events- Speaking of Methodists, I have been getting calls from God's robocaller the last couple of weeks inviting me to a luncheon kicking off a new Singles Ministry at the church. Since I would rather give myself a lead shampoo with a 9mm rather than join a singles ministry, I called my excellent friend S over there to see what she could do to get this nuisance turned off.

She said that she and I were both coded "j" in the database which apparently means "pester without ceasing about the damned Singles Ministry." She also told me that, according to the database, I have "0 life events." I asked her what that meant. She said she did not know.

I deny that I have led a life bereft of life events. It has not been particularly purpose driven but it has been full of of life events. Why, I have more life events than you can shake a stick at. I am lousy with life events.

I have been airborne in a car. I have been made to cool my heels for 3 days by an irate judge in Mississippi. I have seen statuesque women making out in front of the ladies room of a beer joint in Foley, Alabama. I have a new car. It is being recalled. Seems the goddamn things spontaneously start themselves from time to time. This is not good.

I am the only person you know who has read 2/3 of Shelby Foote's Civil War Trilogy. I went out a couple of times with a former model who told me she has seen Claudia Schiffer nekkid.

Whoo-hoo! You say that's not a life event? I'll see your life events and raise you 10.

I once received by mistake the draft of the opening remarks a certain commissioner of a professional sport was to make before a Congressional committee prior to his testimony. The former head of the League of Women Voters in Pulaski County owes me 5 bucks. When I bought this house, the bank screwed up the paperwork and didn't require a down payment. The paper got sold before they caught it.

Tell me. You ever buy a house with nothing down? If you did you would call it a life event.

I blew out a tire en route to my grandfather's graveside service. You ever heard of a guy so inept he could "fuck up a 3 car funeral procession?" That would be me. I was that guy. And it happened during a life event. As soon as I got back to Little Rock after law school , I got mugged and I had a car stolen. When I lived in New Orleans, I had a guy leave me money and an apologetic note after siphoning gas from my car. In New Orleans!

In the greatest act of religious faith I ever seen, I once saw a man finish a cigarette before going inside a Christian Scientist church service. Me and another guy-who will go nameless since he is now a sitting judge-once smuggled beer into Baptist Medical Center to take to a buddy who was laid up in there. I know a guy who once got shot accidentally on Friday the 13th. My neighbor's tree once fell on my house on Easter Sunday. I leave it to you to ponder the wider theological import of that life event.

While I haven't bought any meth or sought out the services of a gay hooker, I will yield to no man in the "life events" category. I am not without some influence with the clergy and I will insist that this slander be removed from my permanent record.

One of our local federal judges says that the Holy Spirit descends in the jury room and in the ballot box. Of course, he would say that since he made a million bucks trying cases to juries. All I am prepared to say is that I never feel more like an American than when I am marking my ballot. And I know that those Jack-O-Lanterns in the yard across the street from where maybe the Holy Spirit descends unto me at the place where I vote are other outward and visible signs that I have indeed had some life events.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Go Hurricanes!

I don't want to make too much of this. But there are times when sports are important. Here is a great story in today's New York Times about the continued travails of the South Plaquemine High football team and the coach who is trying to keep these kids together.

I couldn't help but think of all the bitching that goes on around here in Little Rock about the lack of funding and facilities. They ought to be ashamed.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Rising Tide That Lifts All Republican Boats

I met my buddy JC for lunch at a local restaurant the other day. JC was in an unusually expansive mood with the election coming up. Unlike me, he is a consummate political junkie. He knows that I am not much interested in the machinations of politics that consumes him. However, he tolerates me nonetheless, much in the way that my friends who are good golfers tolerate me. I keep my mouth shut. I keep up. I am willing to take instruction.

One of the big races around here involves the one for the exceptionally irrelevant position of Lt. Governor. The Democratic candidate is a self-made millionaire named Bill Halter. The Republican candidate is State Senator Jim Holt who is pictured here.

Now, Holt is an interesting guy. He hails from Northwest Arkansas which is a hotbed of right-wing politics and religion here in Arkansas. Holt's opponent has an undergraduate degree from Stanford and a Master's from Oxford. Holt attended the University of Maryland and the University of Arkansas. More on this later.

Holt is opposed to gay marriage, opposes funding for mandatory pre-kindergarten which he considers socialistic, and has voted against raising the minimum wage. His stance on illegal immigrants is sufficiently draconian that Governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and no civil libertarian, has referred to it as un-Christian.

Holt is derided in the media as an unelectable nut in a statewide race and something of a slacker who needs the Lt. Governor's job to feed his family. JC, however, says that the other Republican candidates, such as Asa Hutchinson who is running for Governor, thanked their lucky stars when Holt made the race.

"Really?" I said.

" Hell yes!" John said. " He's the rising tide that lifts all Republican boats. Asa wouldn't have even made the race if Holt weren't running."

" I'm not following you."

JC looked at me with both resignation and pity.

" Look. It's simple." he said. " The nuts will turn out en masse for Holt. And do you think they are going to vote for any Democrats while they are in there voting for Jesus Jim? Hell no they're not. This means Asa can basically rise above the fray and not have to talk about gays and such too much because the nuts have already been pandered to by Holt."

He paused.

" Actually, pandering is too strong of a word. Holt actually believes the crazy shit he puts out. Anyway, Asa can let Holt keep the faithful fired up about the gays and abortion and illegal immigration and God only knows what else. Asa doesn't have to do a thing and he reaps the benefits of Holt's whack job constituency."

That makes sense to me. At least as much as anything does.

I guess the questions I have about Holt don't have as much to do with his positions as much as
they do with him. First of all, he didn't get a college degree and yet he claims to have been an analyst and watch officer for the National Security Agency. After his stint with the NSA, he supposedly went to work as a counselor and chaplain at a private facility for sex offenders. That's odd. He went from a watch officer at NSA to a counselor's position? At a facility for sex offenders? Neither position required a college degree? Has anybody in the media checked this story out?

Secondly, the man has a wife and 9 kids. His only visible means of support is the salary he draws from the Senate. He has admitted that it is tough to raise such a large family on less than $40,000. Indeed, he has also admitted that he has accepted the gift of a van from a friend from his church. Rumor has it that he also accepts "offerings" from friends and supporters. His friends say that Holt is not a materialist. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think we need more average folks running for office. The way things are trending now, you practically have to be a millionaire to run for higher political office. That's just wrong.

But practically nobody in the state legislature subsides on his or her salary as a lawmaker. The positions don't pay enough. Being a Arkansas lawmaker may be a high calling but it is a part-time job. Do we really want to elect somebody to the second highest constitutional office in the State who has such a spotty resume in the real world of work? Further, all politicians are beholden to the interest groups that support them. Do we want to elect somebody that is also beholden to friends and supporters for his subsistence? Do we want to elect somebody Lt. Governor because he needs a job?

These are interesting times that we live in. There are guys on Tuesday's ballot whose only qualifications are that they are devout conservatives. And they got there fair and square by winning their primaries.

Is that all it takes to be a Republican? Is that enough to win an election?

I guess we'll see tomorrow night.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

As we all know, appearances are important. But they can be deceptive. A couple of things that happened last week prove the point.

Last Saturday afternoon, I set out to procure a couple of tickets to the Razorback game that was going to be played later that evening. I live about a half mile from War Memorial Stadium. My house is next to Van Buren Avenue which is a major artery on game days. What I usually do is stand out on the corner of F and Van Buren around 3 p.m. as the cars start to back up. I hold up two fingers in the air. Eventually, somebody always comes by with tickets they need to get rid of. It never fails.

Last Saturday's plan was no different. I got out there at the usual time. I was wearing a golf sweater, shorts and a cap. A bottle of water was sitting at my feet. After about 15 minutes, an SUV pulls over. The window comes down. I put my hand on my wallet and walk over.

" Sir, do you need money?" the lady in the passenger side said. " Do you need 2 dollars?"

I was taken aback.

"No ma'am. I have plenty of money. What I need are 2 tickets." I said.

"Oh." she replied. "I can't help you with that." Window went up and away the went the SUV.

I should have taken the 2 bucks.

I called over to my neighbor Jimmy who was painting his porch.

"Did you see that?" I said. "A lady offered to give me money. Do I look that bad?"

"We've been meaning to talk with about your look." Jimmy said, looking over the top of his glasses.

"I guess I need it." I replied.

Later on the following week, we had our first cold snap of the season. I decided I would celebrate by wearing a jacket and tie to work, something I don't usually do unless I have to either go to court or to a funeral. Around ten o' clock, I walked down Capitol Avenue to go hit the ATM at my bank. As I approached Broadway, I noticed a street person coming toward me.

"Great." I thought. "I'm gonna be panhandled."

Instead, the man bowed slightly and said, " Man, you sure look good today, Sir. You're a man that looks good in a suit."

Andrea from the U.S. Attorney's office was going by as this was going on. She was greatly amused when I told her about my encounter with the Razorback fan a few days earlier.

" So let me get this straight." she said. " You looked like a bum to the lady going to the game and you looked like a fashion plate to the homeless man. I think somewhere in the middle is probably the reality of the situation."

I guess.

But that's the thing about appearances. They can mean different things to different people. That is why it is important to keep an eye on yourself if for no other reason than to try to see yourself as others see you. It is also important to go out of your way to avoid certain appearances. For example, in my line of work we are under an affirmative obligation to avoid the very appearance of impropriety. Similarly speaking, if I were a gay-bashing politically active moralistic evangelist who makes a living espousing such things, I might want to avoid being outed by a gay prostitute. It makes you look like a hypocrite and it is bad for bidness.

As we all know by know, the Rev. Ted Haggard, the Senior Pastor of a megachurch in the Colorado Springs area, is the subject of an intense media barrage after a local gay hooker claimed in an interview that he serviced the good Reverend for a period of three years and that he hooked him up with guys who sold him meth which the hooker claims Haggard took to "enhance" the experience.

Haggard, whom we may safely assume is not related to Merle, denies that he had sex with the man, but admits that he received massages from him. He also admits that he bought the dope but that he "never used it." Maybe he was trying it out as a supplement to that " Jerusalem Diet" book that he wrote.

Haggard was, up until all of this amusement, the President of the National Association of Evangelicals. He and his organization had a great deal of influence in Washington and vociferously condemned both homosexuality and gay marriage. And Haggard was one of the leading opponents of a proposal to legalize gay marriage in Colorado.

As far as appearances go, you have to say this looks like unshirted hell. While most of us are reasonable people about such matters and don't regard our clergy as plastic saints or expect perfection from them, we generally don't approve of them buying illegal drugs. And while we certainly would not begrudge a man of the cloth a backrub, we expect him to get it from a chiropractor and not a prostitute. At the very least, it don't look good and is bad for bidness.

I predict this story will get worse before it gets better. Haggard says he was referred to the prostitute by a hotel concierge. The prostitute says that's baloney, that the only way he could be found in those days-he has since "retired"-was on the Internet. Which means that, much as Congressman Foley and the Republican Party have found out to their everlasting chagrin, every communication Haggard may have made to his masseur/amateur pharmacist, be it by phone or by Internet, may be retrieved.

But right now he's sticking to his story, ludicrous as it is. And right now, I can't disprove it, even though I don't believe it for 5 minutes. But I know this. His story is what we call a "but, but, but" defense. And the "but, but, but" defense rarely works.

I am reminded of when the late Joseph Cardinal Bernadin was accused by a Chicago area man of having molested him when he was an altar boy. When he was asked at a press conference if he had sex with the accuser, Cardinal Bernadin's response was swift and direct.

"No. I've never had sex with anybody before." he said. No "but,but,but" with him.

I don't know just how this will play out politically. Surely, the last damned thing the Republicans need after the Abramoff and Foley scandals is the news that a guy that the President talks to once a week has bought street drugs and occasionally rented him some from a gentleman of the pavement. And just as assuredly, this mess brings joy to the hearts of Democrats, columnists and comedians everywhere. How this translates to how the upcoming election shakes out is unknown.

But the Senior Pastor at my church-who insofar as it can be determined has not bought dope or procured a hooker during his ministry-cautions us to be more circumspect and to look at the big picture.

"Unfortunately, we professional religious types are not immune to this sort of thing being human and all." he said to me in an e-mail on the subject. "The result is that the church and the faith will suffer. Celebration is not appropriate. Maybe Haggard will publicly confess, receive forgiveness from the Church and the community and start all over again. That's what Jesus would probably tell him to do."

Boy, ain't it just like a preacher to throw cold water and perspective on all of the schadenfruede that is going around out there right now. The good ones can't help it.

But Haggard's 14,000 member New Life Church might ought to launch an immediate investigation into this sordid situation if only to ascertain just what kind of conflicted loon has been fronting for the organization for all these years. And they would do well to ask themselves why they didn't catch on.

Because appearances are everything. And this looks like unshirted hell.

And as for me, I'm going to take an extra look at the mirror before I head out in the morning.