Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

Every two years we have an election of some sort. And every two years I write about how much I hate politics and how disgusted I am with the TV commercials. Indeed, I have beating the hell out of the mute button on my remote for the past 6 months. Even ESPN provides no refuge from the relentless stupidity coming from both parties.

And I say this every two years. Just when I think that it couldn't get any worse, it does. I refer to it as the Palinization of politics, of dumbing things down to the lowest common denominator and then repeating palpably untrue things relentlessly until they acquire some patina of truth in the public mind. At least the segment of the public that doesn't check facts.

Let's turn to the race for the relatively benign offices of Lt. Governor and Secretary of State in our fair state for an example. The candidates promise to balance the budget, cut taxes and create jobs. No they won't. The jobs are largely ceremonial although the current Lieutenant managed to get the state lottery passed which gave him a reason to run for the United States Senate. The state's budget will be balanced but that is only because the State Constitution requires it. Otherwise, these guys really don't have much to do.

Oh. Mark Darr, the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, says he will stop Obamacare. No he won't. The Attorney General is the only Constitutional officer authorized to sue on behalf of the State. And he has declined to join the other AGs in seeking to get the new health care reforms overturned by the courts. Mr. Darr is certainly free to bring a taxpayer's suit on his own behalf. But those are routinely unsuccessful. Knock yourself out. Let me know how it works for ya.

And the money! A buddy of mine went to a fundraiser the other night for a candidate for Justice of the Peace. This caused him to recollect that there was a time when they didn't have fundraisers for such inconsequential positions. Why on Earth would somebody spend tens of thousands of dollars to hold an office where about all you can do is marry people? If you want to marry people without benefit of seminary training become a minister in the Universal Life Church and get your credentials online for a nominal fee.

But back to the mental ward that is politics in this country. While the Tea Party has produced its moments of amusement-I give you lying deadbeat loon Christine O'Donnell-they have also managed to co-opt the discourse in this country largely because neither the Democrats or what passes for sensible Republicans will take them on.

Here's just one example.

Corporate Bailouts Are Bad! Yeah well so are Depressions. This implies that the government not allowing those banks or the automakers to fail was a bad thing. So, an additional 3 million unemployed people is a good thing? They paid most of the taxpayer's money back at murderous interest rates. Tell me how this didn't work.

Common Sense Arkansas Values. Standing up to Obama and Pelosi. Cutting waste and fraud. Creating jobs. Upholding traditional family values.

Nonsense. Complete Nonsense.

What the hell. Watching the Saints tonight with the sound off won't be the worst thing in the world.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

I'm 55 today. Damn.

I still feel and pretty much look the same as I have for the past 5 years or so. But the old "double nickle" seems like a lot. And I really didn't think about it until just the other day.

It's not like I'm all of a sudden falling apart or anything. I still run, work out with a trainer, play golf and run around with the kids from Miracle League. While I'm a little heavier than I used to be, I still have pretty much kept my girlish figure. Certainly there are folks younger than me that are in far worst shape and you don't have to look too far to find them. Just like there are folks who have gone, and are going, through a lot more trouble than I have ever gone through.

Sure. I now officially have a Bad Back. My last trip to the cardiologist yielded amusing results which surprised us both. My new doctor is on my ass about my diet and his treatment plan is oriented around "what we need to do to keep you going strong as you get older."

They used to do "wellness." They're now doing "trying to keep somebody with your screwy numbers and really bad family history from dropping dead on us." Screw that. I was told last summer that if a pinched nerve didn't resolve itself I might have to use a cane. And I might not be able to help out at Miracle League. Which caused one smartass to remark that I would be the first person in Miracle League history to go on the Disabled List. Really screw all of that.

But I got better. And I'm still plugging along. My friends at the gym opine that my generally healthy ways are probably what helped me recover from the nerve thing. My cardiologist said despite my weird scores I am asymptomatic which you never see at my age. So there's nothing to treat. I just bear watching.

I'm still plugging along. I don't have to try to quit smoking or drinking at this age. I don't have to lose 20 pounds. I don't have to have a knee replaced. Yet. So far so good.

I'm going to brunch here in a little bit where I will undoubtedly eat stuff that Dr. Tilley would not approve of. My odds are better tonight. I'm going to over to have dinner with friends. Karen specializes in healthy cooking. So maybe I can reverse the polarity. My only other plans for the day are to read the paper, maybe play some golf and watch football to see if the refs actually enforce the new rules regarding helmet-to-helmet collisions. Sounds like a good Sunday to me.

It feels weird to be this old. You look at the obits. People my age die from diseases now instead of accidents. I know my time is more allotted than it was at one time.

Still. I have my robust good health. I have a roof over my head in a part of town that I love. I have money in the bank. There are, on the whole, more people that love me than hate me. And I still enjoy my life and I have many things yet to do.

So far so good. I am blessed beyond what I deserve.

So I'll just keep plugging along.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Woody Hayes, the late coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, once said something to the effect that college football players at that level of play were so talented "we could make them stop in midair if we wanted to." It stands to reason that NFL players could do likewise. Which is why the NFL's edict last Monday that it was going to suspend players that initiate excessively violent helmet-to-helmet collisions, like the one featured above depicting the Steelers' James Harrison decapitating Mohammed Massaquoi of the Browns last Sunday, was way overdue.

After all, the rule is clear. A player is not allowed to use any part of the helmet to "butt, spear or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily." Period. And when a player launches himself into the air head first to blow up an opposing player instead of, say, aiming between the numbers and wrapping up with the arms, that is a"violent and unnecessary" method of tackling the ball carrier. In fact, at that point the defender is not trying to bring down the opponent. He is trying to maim him.

But let's not lay all of the blame on the players. The NFL and the media has long glorified these excessively violent collisions. Even young football players talk about "blowing up" or "jacking up" an opponent. Harrison, was actually as quoted as saying that he didn't really worry when he knocks an opposing player out because the player is "just sleeping."

No, you idiot. It's a concussion. It may affect him in later life. The cumulative effect of leading with the head may even adversely impact James Harrison in later life as well. Which is frightening when you consider the lack of higher cortical function already evidenced by Harrison's idiotic statements about the subject.

NFL players know what they are in for. They play a violent game in which huge players collide at a high rate of speed. And some helmet-to-helmet contact will always be inevitable. But the helmet should not be used as a weapon.

The NFL should give the refs the authority to eject players on the spot for violating the new rule. And they should fine and suspend any violators. These guys can stop in midair. They can lower the strike zone just as easily. In act, as a public service to the league, I will suggest appropriate nominees to chair a committee to review such hits not settled on the field on a case by case basis to see if they violate the policy. I hereby nominate former players Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Lynn Swann, and Ronnie Lott. Conrad Dobler could be Chairman to cast any tie-breaking vote. These guys know from dirty. The vote from any such committee would be enforced by the Commissioner.

Otherwise, why not hold the next Super Bowl in the Roman Coliseum?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

Behold the Rebel Black Bear, the new mascot of the Ole Miss Rebels. "Rebel" who is set to prowl the sidelines in 2011 was selected by a poll of students and alumni to replace "Colonel Reb," the costumed plantation owner who has appeared at Rebels games since 1979.

Colonel Reb was decommissioned a few years ago as Ole Miss tried to disassociate itself image-wise with the Old South. Not only was it felt that such iconography was offensive to African Americans given Mississippi's generally sorry history in the area of civil rights, it was also thought that the image of an elderly patrician clad in a frock coat did not exactly conjure up thoughts of virility and competence on the athletic field.

Naturally, there are plenty of Ole Miss alums who have their nose out of joint about this. They believe Colonel Reb was sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Some have even claimed that this is exceptionally wrongheaded if you consider that the image of Colonel Reb was fashioned in the likeness of a beloved black man named Blind Jim Ivy who was a fixture at Ole Miss athletic events until his death in 1955:

I have no reason to doubt that Blind Jim Ivy was a beloved presence on the campus and in Oxford. I do not believe for 5 minutes that the image of Colonel Reb, a white planter depicted wearing a plantation hat and the aforementioned frock coat, was patterned after a blind African American. That's just making stuff up.

This whole mascot thing is pretty silly. The NCAA has been leaning on it's "member institutions" to get rid of mascots and iconography that might be offensive to others. And so the Illini of Illinois did away with it's Native American mascot. Marquette, the Warriors no longer, are something called a "Red Storm." Hell, even tiny Hendrix College, my old alma mater, retained the Warrior nickname but did away with the Native American iconography. The new "Warrior" resembles a knock off Braveheart figure. Only our version of William Wallace's hair resembles Tom Brady. This warrior may represent no conceivable offense to Native Americans, but he offends me.

But what is really offensive is that the NCAA comes down hard on Illinois while laying off on the likes of Florida State and Notre Dame. You can certainly make a plausible case for the notion that "Fighting Irish" portrays an image of drunkenness and bellicosity that some may find offensive. But Notre Dame has too much money and can fight back. So the NCAA leaves them alone. Same deal with Florida State although the Seminole tribe in Florida has stated that it is not offended by having Native American imagery burlequed by those rednecks. Perhaps the Irish have told the NCAA the same thing.

I kinda liked Colonel Reb. But Ole Miss is simply following the modern trend of sports branding that attempts to offend no one. Hence the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.

And now we have something called the Rebel Black Bear. Which assumes that bears have something of a political consciousness. Which I can certainly believe before I would ever believe that Colonel Reb was patterned after Blind Jim Ivy.

The loyal opposition has stated that they are still going to send Colonel Reb to pre-game activities out in the Grove. The Rebel Black Bear will be there too. Hopefully the Colonel won't be packing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

I've never been in the Courthouse in Lee County, Mississippi. I'm sure that it has a security point that you have to go through to make sure that visitors aren't carrying weapons or items of contraband. If you happen to have business before the Hon. Talmadge Littlejohn, you might as well check your rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America at the security point. Otherwise, you might wind up like Oxford lawyer Danny Lampley, pictured in his mug shot above.

Lampley's offense? Seems Judge Talmadge starts off the day in his Courtroom by having those in attendance recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Lampley, who was there on a divorce matter, refused to take part. For this he was found to be in criminal contempt of court and got to eat lunch on the County.

Why didn't Lampley want to say the Pledge of Allegiance? Simple. "I don't have to say it because I'm an American, " he told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

I don't know if it's because we are in an exceedingly nasty election year or what. But this kind of ersatz patriotism seems to be in its ascendant mode. But the truth of the matter is this kind of silliness, from religious displays in public buildings, to candidates expressing opinions on the "truth" of evolution, pops up from time-to-time in the national consciousness. It just seems louder nowadays. Of course, the reason this kind of foolishness occurs periodically is because it is easier than actually solving problems. That and it works.

This, as we like to say around here, is a teachable moment.

The fact of the matter is that Lampley is right. Judge Talmadge can rule against him on matters of law from here to eternity. But he can no more legally order somebody to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance than he can order somebody to say the Rosary.

But why take my word for it? This is what the Supreme Court of the United States of America said about compulsory flag rituals in 1943 in West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette:

"The compulsory flag salute and pledge requires affirmation of a belief and an attitude of mind. [It] is now a commonplace that censorship or suppression of expression of opinion is tolerated by our Constitution only when the expression presents a clear and present danger of action of a kind the State is empowered to prevent and punish. It would seem that involuntary affirmation could be commanded only on even more immediate and urgent grounds. [But] here the power of compulsion is invoked without any allegation that remaining passive during a flag salute ritual creates a clear and present danger. [To] sustain the compulsory flag salute we are required to say that a Bill of Rights which guards the individuals right to speak his own mind, left it open to public authorities to compel him to utter what is not on his mind. [But if] there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not know occur to us."

No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in nationalism or politics or force citizens to confess by word their faith therein.

I don't know why Mr. Lampley didn't want to recite the Pledge. And it's none of my damned business. Neither is it any of Judge Talmadge's, who seems to be the very embodiment of the "petty official" in the mind of Justice Jackson who wrote the Opinion in Barnette.

He doesn't have to participate because he's an American. I hope Lampley appeals.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

My friend Gwen died last week. She had a stroke about 3 weeks ago. After rallying briefly she went into a tailspin. They out her in the Critical Intensive Care Unit. She never came out.

I'm guessing that she was maybe all of 45. That's too young. Too young.

Gwen suffered from poor health for most of the time that I knew her. She had lupus which kept her physically exhausted and prevented her from engaging in much exercise. Maybe the disease kept her from having that 5th gear she needed to pull through. Maybe not. It didn't help matters any I can tell you that.

Naturally, as seems typical of untimely deaths, she was a kind and gentle person who gave of herself to people and causes. She was an Assistant United States Attorney, she was active in the Bar, and the Junior League. She was on the Board of the local chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (as it was known then) and she served as President of the Board of Women and Children First.

Indeed, knowing of my utter and complete disdain for the Holiday season, she delighted in pestering me without ceasing with invitations to the goddamn Junior League's Holiday House. She issued these spurious invitations on a yearly basis, sometimes enlisting our mutual friend Jana to double team me, knowing full well that I would not be caught dead there on a bet.

"Oh come onnnnnnnnnnn," Gwen would mew. "You'ld dooooo it for meeeeeeee, wouldn't you?"

No. I would not do it for her. I would take a bullet for her. But I wouldn't go to Holiday House. I got principles. They may be screwy ones. But I got 'em. And it amused her to no end to punch my buttons about 'em.

I know that we all gotta go. Our days are numbered as are the hairs on our head. Which in my case means I had better call Reubel Funeral Home and pre-plan my sendoff. As I grow older I have become more conversant with the inevitable. My own remaining parent died last December. I attend the funerals of parents of friends on what seems to be a frequent basis. An aunt died a year and a half ago. A friend almost lost his wife two or three years ago.

But there is nothing tragic about the death of an elderly person. It is the natural order of things. And why I know that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, it seems grossly unfair when a good and useful person like Gwen is struck down before her time. A parent should never have to bury a child, as the parents of soldiers have always known. I cannot imagine such a grief. How does one go on? I cannot imagine.

When you are young you cannot fully appreciate the profundity of annihilation. I am on the flip side of 50. I go to lots of funerals now. I get it. And yet I can scarcely comprehend the fact that Gwen is gone. As in forever. Three weeks ago we were talking about golf. She was on a citizens committee for the City's Parks and Recreation Department. She wanted to know more about the municipal golf courses. She asked if she could ride in the cart with me sometime just so she could see for herself. Sure. Why not?

Two days later, her father found her on the floor.

As God is my witness I do not know why these things happen. There are a million no good sons-of-bitches walking around out there who will live to be 110. And prosper while doing it. Guys that got it coming in spades. And yet laughing chance puts a hard working God fearing woman like Gwen in the cross-hairs.

My friend Laura the Lawyer in Jackson is forsaking the noble profession of the law to be a Methodist preacher. She has sent me books on the topic of why bad things seem to happen to good people otherwise known by the theological term theodicy. I haven't read them yet. I know I should.

But I can't. I'm too pissed off. Gwen was a woman of a deep and abiding faith. And she would scold me if she were here to read this.

But I don't get it, Gwen. I just don't get it.

And I don't know what else to say.