Thursday, May 31, 2007

Excuse Me, Mister Pot. Mr. Kettle Is On Line 3. He's Heard What You've Been Calling Him.

In an interview Wednesday with ESPN's overbearing Stephen A. Smith, Kobe Bryant announced that he wanted to be traded. Seems he believes that the Laker front office has been putting out the rumor that they had to get rid of Shaquille O'Neal to appease Kobe. That nobody other than Kobe has ever arisen to challenge that version of the story speaks volumes about the situation.
In any event, according to Kobe it has now become "a trust thing."
" It's rough man, but I don't see how you can rebuild that trust." he told the unusually silent Stephen A. " I just don't know how you can move forward in that type of situation."
Well, I know somebody he can consult about moving forward "in that type of situation."
His wife.
You might recall a couple of years ago Kobe Bryant got charged with raping a desk clerk at a resort hotel in Colorado. The charges were dropped but Kobe got sued by the victim. They settled. Kobe admitted to having a "consensual encounter" with the woman.
I would imagine that the missus was only marginally comforted by the fact that her soul mate was not held criminally liable for the entire sordid transaction. But she didn't leave and clean him out in the process as similarly situated wives might have done. She "moved forward" in a far worse situation than Kobe is being forced to endure.
But it was the hubris of Kobe Bryant that got him in that fix in the first place. And it is hubris for him to presume to lecture the Lakers about "trust issues."
But if her really is confused about how to go on, I say that the expert in the field may be found right in his back yard.
Trust me.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Sunday Feeling

I got the news about Jerry. He was a little older than the rest of us. He had served with the Marines in Viet Nam and was attending law school on the GI Bill. He was, by all appearances, pretty affable and easy going. I can't say that I knew all that well but he was a fun guy to have a beer with. I do recall he was completely ambivalent about a legal career. He came from a long line of river boat pilots and he was pretty much guaranteed a job doing that if he wanted to seeing as how the union restricted entry level positions to family members. I can't imagine they are still getting away with that nowadays but that was the case back in 1981.

Jerry was an officer in Nam. One day he and his men were surrounded by Viet Cong. Jerry called in for air support. He ordered his sargeant to sent up a smoke grenade. Red meant "enemy." Green meant "same team." The sargent screwed up and sent up a red grenade. The helicopters opened fired on Jerry's men. Many of them were killed including the hapless sargent. A buddy of mine had many conversations with Jerry about his days in Viet Nam and about that particular incident. He said Jerry just shrugged it off as the kind of thing that can happen in the fog of war.

According to the Times-Picayune, a co-worker knocked on the door to his office over at the Courthouse in Gretna to remind him of a meeting. He heard a popping sound. He opened the door and found Jerry dead. Shot in the head with a 9mm. Employees don't have to go through a security point. That's how he could waltz into the Courthouse with a handgun.

I haven't heard anything else from the guys down there. Anytime a person takes his or her own life we try to figure out the reason "why?" It's just human nature. Did he have money problems? Was he depressed? Did the fact that he did it at the office mean anything? My friend who used to talk to him about his service wondered if the fact that he killed himself a week before Memorial Day was in itself a message.

Who knows? Some people can escape the fog of war. Some cannot. And some live in their own fog without ever having worn the uniform.

Like Jerry, my friend Tom served with the Marines in Nam. I told him about Jerry. Tom is very proud of his service but like most guys who have seen serious combat is modest and circumspect. About all he allowed concerning Jerry was to say that "the experience of combat changes ones life forever." He also gently suggested that maybe we should think of our fallen comrade Jerry tomorrow on Memorial Day.

So here's to my Dad who spent his 18th birthday at Iwo Jima and who spent the early years of his marriage having nightmares about it. Here's to Danny, John and Michael who did I raq and Afghanistan. Here's to Matt who should be on the way home even as I type this. Here's to Tom who carried the big machine gun in Nam. Here's to his son who followed him to the Marine Corps and got back himself from Iraq.

Here's to all the men and women who have ever worn the uniform.

And here's to Jerrold Peterson, Law 1981, The Tulane University of Louisiana who maybe never escaped the fog of war.

We thank you and we grateful.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Real Estate Development In The Ozarks

Here is a column in the Branson paper about the latest real estate investment opportunity offered to the simple-minded by man of the cloth and former convict Jim Bakker. I think Branson is the perfect place to run this scam. If Wayne Newton and Andy Williams can resurrect careers there why not Bakker?

The article says that Bakker did 5 years of a 45 year sentence in federal prison after running a surprisingly similar scam back in the old PTL days. I remember that he caught 45 years from the judge. But if he only did 5 that means he was sentenced prior to the sentencing guidelines in which parole was eliminated or the sentence was cut down on appeal. It matters not. If he were still busting rocks somewhere he wouldn't be free to be run his "ministry" a second time.

Oh well. You can't protect everybody. Hit the link:

Sunday, May 20, 2007

This Would Never Happen To Me Sober Even

An amusing little golf story from today's New York Times Magazine. Hit the link.

My Sunday Feeling

These little guys are the Red Wings. It was my privilege to spend every Saturday the last six weeks with them in the Miracle League. The Miracle League is a national baseball program for special needs kids. Only one can't really call it "baseball" as such.

They hit soft balls with padded bats. They hit them off a tee or off an underhand toss. Nobody gets called out. Everybody scores and the last guy up gets to hit a home run. As you might surmise, absolutely zero defense is played except what is necessary to keep somebody from getting knocked in the head. All in all it is not so much different than tee-ball played by little kids except some of our kids need help in remembering where to run. Some of our kids need "buddies" to push the wheelchairs.

If you can't be humbled by the courage of these little guys than your asshole enzymes are at Barry Bonds levels. Not that the players in the Miracle League would consider themselves brave. Hell, no. They're just playing ball. They are getting the opportunity to run around and be on a team just like "normal" kids everywhere. They are just having fun. For these guys it takes courage to get through the day to day. They don't have to be brave when they are at the ball park. They can just play and let somebody else do the bravery thing for awhile.

There are lessons that can be learned from children such as these. I learned one last week when I said something to a little girl on one of the other teams that made me hope for the Earth to swallow me whole.

One of the kids-a girl we'll call Mary- on the other team didn't want to bat. " I can't bat. I don't want to." she said. I asked her if she would give it a try "just for me." That tends to work with girls. At least it does until about the age of 16. Then nothing works and this never changes.

And so she stood in and took her cuts. I noticed that Mary's right hand was turned in and that she drug her right leg. She swung as if she were trying to hit a left handed backhand. She eventually hit the ball-nobody strikes out in the Miracle League-but clearly she was frustrated.

I have coached baseball off and on for 20 years. I figured I could help her out. When she was out in the field, I asked her what hand she wrote with. She held up her left hand. The left wrist had girly-girl kid bracelets on it. The right hand she held behind her back. "I used to write with my right hand before the car accident" she said. Oh. Turns out she sustained a traumatic brain injury in a hit-and-run accident. Jesus. Poor baby. Poor sweet baby.

"Listen, honey," I said. "We're going to try something different next time around. I think I can fix you.'
Her brown eyes widened. "You can fix me?" she said.

Dear God in heaven. I wanted to die on the spot. I wanted to literally be smote into ash there on second base. How could I have been so thoughtless? Coaches talk about fixing swings. Lawyers talk about fixing problems. Still. I make a damn good living being careful and precise with language. And here I am coming across to this poor child as the baseball equivalent of Benny Hinn. How could I have been so stupid?

And yet, we say and do things all of the time in the "real world' with very little regard for the feelings of others. We tell jokes, we make statements and offer opinions in the company of others with no thought that we might be offending someone needlessly. We mean nothing by it. And when we are told" You know all that stuff you said about the Mayor the other day? That's Bob's cousin.", we go seek Bob out and offer our sincere apologies. But still we ought to keep a closer eye on ourselves as the actors say. We ought to do a better job of thinking before we speak. There's a lot of hurt in this world. No sense in turning up the temperature on a person's pain unless we just have to.

After I realized that God wasn't going to bail me out by smiting me hip and thigh, I said, " Well sweetie, what I meant was that I think I can help you hit the ball better." That seemed to satisfy her. Thank God.
After our game today, we handed out the medals and we sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." I said goodbye to the Red Wings until the fall session. My Asperger's kids told me they had fun. One of the kids confessed that in lieu of his baseball cap he had been wearing a technology cap that turned him into a robot. OK by me. One of my PDD (pervasive developmental disorder) kids wanted to shake my hand before he left Even better than being hugged by a bunch of germy kids, the Moms all hugged me.

It was a good day. Did you have a better day than I did? Oh yeah? Wanna bet?
All of the Red Wings are precious in my sight and I will miss every single one of them. Which is a first for me. Usually I want to kill, on the average, one or two guys on every team I have ever coached and the feeling is generally mutual. Not so at the Miracle League. Victory remains in love at the friendly confines of our little ballyard.

I can't wait to see my Red Wings again. This has been the most fun I've had on the baseball field in years. I'm in the process of learning sign language so I can communicate with the players that are hearing impaired. It's not that I'm a nice guy. The deaf kids are the only players I can't yell at. This dangerously alters the balance of power and must be rectified. . Hopefully, Mary will come back out in the Fall. It is my fervent prayer that she isn't warped for life by the careless words of an insensitive moron.

And I swear to God that I will use that other "f" word before I ever utter the word "fix" down at the Miracle League again.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

You Know What You Know

Word has it that Jim Bakker has infected the Branson area and has also convinced a couple that was foolish enough to turn to him for marriage counseling of all goddamned things to even more stupidly invest in the old PTL scam of building a resort community for the faithful.

More on this later......hit the link....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Revenge Of The Teletubbies

I try not to speak ill of the dead. I really do. After all, the dead take their leave of people that loved them. So it is with Jerry Falwell, the Lion of Lynchburg, who passed away suddenly yesterday, most likely due to heart failure. But I remember a quote from Julian Bond upon the death of Ronald Reagan.
" Of course you feel for the family at a time like this. But he was a terrible president."
It is in this spirit that we remember the Rev. Falwell and that peculiarly American species, the Televangelist, that sprang forth from his generation.
In one sense, he had pretty much a lot in common with his broadcasting brethren. Like Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson, he was an anti-intellectual who founded his own institution of higher learning. I don't know this for sure but it would not surprise me if he received his honorary "doctorate' from Liberty University. Which is a pretty damn convenient way to get to be called 'Doctor." Like Dr. Roberts (guess where he got his post-graduate degree?), Jimmy Swaggart and Billy Graham, he groomed his sons to take over the family business upon his leaving. The televangelist world is one of the last main adherents to primogeniture in America. It was apparently a close call with Franklin Graham however who for much of his young adulthood seemed to be more interested in motorcycles and beer than in preaching the Gospel. Fortunately, Franklin came to his financial senses and heeded the call in time-or feigned hearing it sufficiently convincingly- to take the helm of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
And to be fair, and we are nothing if not fair around here, he was not the worst of his ilk. Although he was compensated richly from his ministry, he certainly was not a con artist like a Robert Tilton or Jim Bakker. Unlike Oral and Richard Roberts or the reptilian Benny Hinn he never held himself out as a faith healer. Unlike Pat Robertson he neither ran for office nor made dubious claims about health food products sold through the ministry. Unlike Gene Scott (my personal favorite TV preacher) he didn't surround himself with flashy women or invest in thoroughbreds. He never dog-cussed the FCC on the air either as it was my privilege to hear Scott do one Sunday night around 1986.
What Jerry Falwell did accomplish, through the bully pulpit of his television ministry was to help make America a meaner and dumber place to live. His offensive vision of a Moral Majority of bloc voters became a force to be reckoned with in national politics as much as the trade unions. For the last 20 years, Republican politicians were at least forced to play lip service to Falwell's vision of an America where gays, feminists and Democrats were second class citizens.
That vision turned paranoid in the latter stages of his public ministry. He denounced the seriously weird but otherwise harmless children's show " The Teletubbies" as having a surreptitious homosexual agenda. However, his obsession with gays turned even more exceedingly pathological when he pronounced 9/11 as God's wrath upon America because of increased tolerance toward gay folks.
When you have a public forum and a constituency that subscribes to your world-view it is incumbent upon you to weigh your words with care. In a time of national crisis, scapegoating a class of people can get those people killed. On the other hand, maybe they don't teach German history at Liberty University. Anyway, it is to his credit that he eventually lamed out of that completely idiotic tautology but by then a large chunk of his credibility had vaporized even among some of those conservative Christians that otherwise admired him.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of these various television ministries that sprung forth in the seventies and eighties. It is hard to envision new ones taking their place. Modern medicine cures at a faster rate than the laying on of hands. In the age of the Internet there are easier ways to make a fast buck than by taking up charlatanry.
I don't know whether we will see the likes of Jerry Falwell again. I do know that this is to the greater and higher public good.
Of course, you feel for the family. But Jerry Falwell was a terrible ambassador for the Prince of Peace.

Friday, May 11, 2007

An Early Mother's Day Present.

I overheard this outside the Federal Courthouse yesterday. A woman pulled out a cellphone and said, " Hi, Mama. He got 'time served.' He ain't got to go back to jail but that judge said he had to spend 2 more months in that drug program the probation officer is making him do."

I hope this made Mama happy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

This is a piece in today's NY Times about the 50th anniversary of the Central High crisis of 1957. As usual, chaos is the order of the day in the Little Rock public schools. Hit the link.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Sport of Kings

I don't really follow the horse game, so I'm not the most knowledgeable person to offer the following prediction about Street Sense, the winner of yesterday's Kentucky Derby. However, if history is any guide, Street Sense will fail to win the Triple Crown and/or will die soon.

Given recent history with these high dollar nags, it would seem that investing in boxers would make more sense.

How Wise Are You?

Here is an interactive quiz culled from today's New York Times Sunday Magazine. It purports to measure one's wisdom. I scored "moderately wise" which, of course, I reject as I am known far and wide for my wisdom.

Anyway, hit the link wiseguy.

My Sunday Feeling

Like many people, I watched PBS's excellent documentary about the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints entitled "The Mormons." Regardless of what you may think about the Mormon church, its history certainly makes for a fascinating story that is as unique as America itself. It also made me ponder the nature of truth claims in religious discourse.

A fair reading of history reveals that the Mormons were the subject of intense scorn and prejudice almost from their inception. They were merely run out of New York. They were attacked by armed militia under color of law in Missouri and Illinois. It is for this reason that they migrated to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, suffering many tribulations along the way in what is one of the most remarkable episodes in American history.

Much of the reason for hatred of the Mormons, at least in their earlier incarnations, was due to their practice of polygamy and their strategy of bloc voting in large numbers. But some of it had to do with Joseph Smith's claim that the LDS church was the only "true" Church of Christ on Earth. Suffice it to say, a lot of it had to do with Joseph Smith himself.

Joseph Smith grew up in upstate New York during a period of great religious fervor in the region. Joseph claimed that while praying in the woods one day for guidance as to what church to join, two angelic personages appeared unto him. One of the angels pointed to the other and said, " This is my Beloved Son! Hear him!"

After this vision, Smith claimed that he was visited by an angel named Moroni who led him to where the golden plates upon which what came to be known the Book of Mormon were conveniently buried there in upstate New York. Smith took it upon himself to "translate" these tablets, using 'seeing stones" left him for that purpose after which the Angel Moroni took the tablets back into heaven. This is the short version of this aspect of the story. The long version is even more complicated and you can research it for yourself if you are so inclined.

Anyway, this is the point in the story where even some Mormon scholars agree that things get a little dicey insofar as truth claims go. According to eyewitnesses present during this production, Smith placed the seeing stone in his hat. He proceeded to "read" it by sticking his head inside the upturned fedora from whence he dictated aloud for transcription by one of his followers. This is how the first draft of Book of Mormon came to be written. Naturally, nobody but Smith ever saw the golden plates, which were the only original source documents for the Book of Mormon, if one is to believe this at all.

The embarrassing problem for the LDS church is that this was not the first time Smith had employed a "seeing stone" or "peep stone." It was just the first time he had used one in order to found a religion. Indeed, as a younger man he was convicted in the case of "People vs. Joseph Smith the Glass Looker " for defrauding a man by claiming he could find buried treasure through the use of a "peep stone." The public record of what passes for his criminal past may be found in Bainbridge, New York.

But before you get too smug about the superiority of your own belief system versus the version put out by the LDS, let's examine a more mainstream doctrine. Let's just pick one, say, that the New Testament is the inerrant word of God and every jot and tittle contained therein was virtually dictated by the Almighty Himself. This is known as the "autograph theory" of Scripture. At least it was back when I thought I was going to be a Methodist minister back in my student days at Hendrix College. Suffice it to say that it is a blessing to both God and the Methodist Church that I discovered David Hume in my Junior year and decided to go to law school. But I digress.

If the Bible is indeed a transcription, then the transcriber was a poor one indeed. Just a few examples of inconsistencies off the top of my head: The Gospel of John doesn't agree with the others in just about anything. This would include what Jesus said, why He performed miracles or what day He was crucified. Much of our Christian theology comes from Jesus's death and resurrection which Jesus hardly talks about in the Gospels. That mostly comes after the fact from Paul. Both Jesus and Paul had an apocalyptic message: The Kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus and later the early church thought the apocalypse was fairly imminent. Which is the sort of thing that one would expect the Son of God to be able to speak about with some authority being the Son of God and all.

Only, the end of the world did not occur. At least if it did, nobody from my church has seen fit to inform me of this fact so that I may cancel my pledge. I will have to check the website.

My point in all of this is just to say that all religions are influenced by the cultural milieu in which they evolve and they retrofit their doctrines accordingly. All of them. The problem for the Mormons is that their truth claims originate with someone recent in history with a fishy public record trailing him. Obviously, it is easier to make a judgment about Joseph Smith's credibility than it is for us to engage in the same exercise about Luke the Physician. The Gospel writers are, for all practical purposes, apocryphal. Joesph Smith was as real as Abraham Lincoln.

So, what is it then? Was Smith a con artist who decided to cash in on the religious fervor of his day? Was he crazy? Or was he a rhapsodic vessel for the Lord? I have my opinion but I don't know for sure. And neither do you.

Just remember that all religious persecution or bigotry represents the most specious of oppression ever devised by man. Because the truth claims of every religion have holes in them. Every single one. And some are wide enough to drive Noah's Ark through them. So in that sense Mormonism is not that much analytically indistinct from anything else.

Just bear that in mind before you make fun of somebody else's religion. Ok. You can make fun of the Raelians. But that's about it and you won't find many of them around here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

An Observation

I saw Houston and Diana Nutt this afternoon in the lobby of the building where I do my banking. I am assuming that they were here in Little Rock to see his lawyer seeing as how his office is there and they would have no other reason to be in the Metropolitan Bank Building.

For those of you who haven't kept up, the Chancellor and the System President of the University of Arkansas were named in a "taxpayer lawsuit" concerning the alleged failure of the UA to adequately investigate the Nutts involvement and/or knowledge concerning a certain harassing e-mail sent to former much ballyhooed freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain by an associate of the Nutt family. Mustain has since transferred to USC and Nutt has been hit with a subpoena by the Plaintiff's attorney. Nutt has also threatened to sue a man who got access to his phone and text message records which revealed numerous messages to a woman not his wife.

As readers of this space will remember, while not calling him a liar outright, I did allow as to how I thought that this looked like hell and that his explanation seemed fishy. Which it still does.

I had never seen Diana Nutt in person before today. She's gorgeous. Men do crazy things sometimes. One of the most beautiful women I know had a husband who screwed around on her from the get-go. But Houston can't do much better than he is doing now. Not many men could. He certainly doesn't have the reputation for having a roving eye and the missus has publicly stated her support for her man. And they didn't seem to be estranged. Indeed, they were holding hands as they walked through the lobby.

We tend to forget-all of us-that public figures are people too. And our own relationships are hard enough to figure out without trying to divine what is going on in someone else's.

It cannot be denied that the hundreds of text messages he sent another woman is bad for appearance's sake. But I saw he and his wife holding hands as if they were out on a date.

It didn't look to me like they were just making an appearance.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sunday in the park with Clarke

Last Sunday we took my 6 year old nephew Clarke to see the local minor league team play. The Travelers play in a brand spanking new facility across the river in North Little Rock. I had never been there before. It is a real jewel. To see for yourself hit the link:

Anyway, we had great seats. We were at ground level between home plate and the 3rd base dugout. The sun was warm but a cool breeze was in our face. The little guy was resplendent in his Oakland A's cap and Travelers shirt. He had a hot dog in one hand and a bottle of water in the other.

He took a bite of his hot dog and after taking a look around said, " This is just the best."

Kurt Vonnegut wrote that he had a favorite uncle back in Indiana who used to say, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

I don't know, off the top of my head, if there's a better way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon than to go to the ballpark with people that you love.

If that isn't nice I don't know what is. It's just the best.