Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day of Rest

No Sunday post today sports fans!  Got lots of stuff going on nowadays and I ain't got time for this right now.

Will return soon!

Talk among yourselves. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

I love my Uncle Howard.  He is a friend, a mentor and a golf buddy.  I cannot imagine my life without him.   Like many of us, Uncle Howard and his buddies like to share stuff from the Internet with each other.  He used to share a lot of these exchanges, most of them right wing rants about politics, with me.  He was pretty active during the Clinton administration until I guess he got tired of me returning fire, which routinely required him to apologize to his friends on the distibution list.  Typically, it would go something like, "Well, my nephew is a good boy but he's a liberal."

Howard was pretty quiet during W's administration.  The e-mail traffic during those halcyon years of peace and prosperity were mostly about golf and family.  But now that the Oval Office is occupied by a Muslim from Kenya, it is Katie bar the door.

Yesterday, "H" as he is known in the family, disseminated to the family and some of his friends an e-mail that purported to be an eyewitness account of a talk given by the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer at the Center for the American Experiment in 2009 in which he criticized the policies of the Obama Administration.

Of course, as with many other offerings from the Internet, the supposedly accurate account was anything but as a quick trip to proved.  You can read the story on snopes here:

As I have said before, I view these as teachable moments.  I sent H the article, along with what I view as a rule of thumb regarding stuff like this.  Anytime you receive from the Internet a supposedly eyewitness account of an event and it doesn't include backup documentation, it is invariably false. Especially when the author purports to describe a talk that occurred over 2 years ago.  Indeed, even Krauthammer repudiated the mischaracterization of his remarks.

Didn't matter. 

"Whether K's comments are true or not they could not be more correct," was his response.

Now last time I looked this was a free country.  You can vote any way you see fit for whatever reason you  want.  And I am not naive.  As the old saying goes, "politics ain't bean-bag."  It is a dirty game with plenty of spinning and parsing from both sides of the isle.

But there is a difference between having an opinion and telling a lie.  You're entitled to your own opinion.  You're not entitled to your own facts.  The author of the e-mail about Dr. Krauthammer told a flat-out lie.  It got passed all around the country.  Undoubtedly many people accepted it on face value.  And I don't think these things are always just cooked up by nuts.  This particular offering was pretty damn clever the more thought of it.

Think about it.  The author knew that Krauthammer was invited to speak at an event that was not open to the general public.  So, there wouldn't be much documentation regarding his remarks.  That and it gives an aura of "inside information."  Secondly, the author prefaced the account by describing Krauthammer's history as a public intellectual.  He's a Harvard trained psychiatrist and award winning author.  So he's really smart.  That and the author probably suspected that some background was needed since many of the downstream recipients of this screed probably have never frigging heard of Charles Krauthammer. 

And the fact that that his remarks at the event were mischaracterized in the e-mail obviously means very little to some people.  And most recipients would accept it at face value in the first place.   

My love and admiration for Uncle Howard is not remotely impacted by his political views.  And vice-versa.  At least I hope.  Oh.  Friday's explanation to his friends on the e-mail list was a semi-exasperated " As you can see my nephew's way out there on the left."  What H does not know is that Friday I was busy with 2 different investigative agencies.  The rest of the day was spent doing debt collection. Some flaming communist I am.

Like I said, I love my Uncle Howard.  And it is for this reason that I am going to give him some George Orwell for Christmas.  Who would have been amazed at political discourse in the present age.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

" This is not good," said my 19 year old dermatologist as he looked at a spot on my scalp. "This is coming off."

For the last 10 years I have been going to the dermatologist on a fairly regular basis due to chronic eruptions of spots on my scalp called "Solar Keratosis."  When I was first diagnosed by the doctor I had then, who has since retired, he told me that the spots got started when I was a kid playing outside.  And probably all the time I spent on the tennis court didn't help matters any. 

"Yeah," Dr. Keeran said. "We tell folks to get out and be active in the fresh air.  Well, this is what can happen.  All your years of baseball, running and tennis.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that any doctor would approve of. Now this.  Ironic, isn't it?"

"Yeah," I said I was I recoiled from the blasts of liquid nitrogen. " Petty damn ironic."

And so, I examine my skin on a pretty regular basis.  And a few days ago, I noticed one of the spots on my scalp looked darker than the other spots.  So I made an appointment even though my next scheduled appointment was in September.  I'm glad I did.

After looking at my scalp, 19 began intently studying my face and ears.

"Notice anything different on shoulders, neck or back?"

"No," I said.

"Good," he replied. "But that spot has got to come off.  And I mean, with a scalpel this time.  I need you to let me do this."

"OK," I said. "Do what you have to do."

After he had finished hacking on me he put the offending spot in a plastic jar.  He turned and started writing in the chart.

"Am I going to die of skin cancer?"

It just came out of my mouth.  What a pussy thing to say.

"Not today you're not," he said as he furiously wrote in the chart.  As an aside, I don't see how that will provide him any useful information.  You should see his handwriting.  It is illegible by doctor standards.  I had a pharmacist ask me once which doc at Little Rock Dermatology signed a prescription that 19 had given me to fill.  And pharmacists can read anything. 

Anyway, he rolled the chair around to face me.

"Look," he said. " If it is anything it is most likely squamous cell. And if it is squamous cell, I probably just took care of the problem.  If it is the next likely culprit, I probably just took care of that too."


"Here's what's gonna happen.  I'm gonna look at it under the microscope.  Then we're gonna send it off and you'll get a call in a couple of days."

Hand on shoulder.

"Try not to worry, Mr. Bowen.  No get out of here before I think of something else to do to you."

"Well," I said to myself as I rode down the elevator. "at least he didn't send me straight to the hospital like they did Andy."

My buddy Andy went to the GP with a sore hip.  Andy played baseball in college.  Figured it was arthritis or something.  3 months later he was dead from melanoma cancer.  He was 50 maybe.  19 didn't send me off to the med school the same day like Andy's doc did. 

Then again, up until the other day 19 had never referred to me as "Mr. Bowen" either.  My overactive mind wondered what that meant.  If anything. 

As a friend's doctor told her, "If you live long enough stuff just starts happening.  Mother Nature didn't really design us to live as long as we live."

So stuff starts happening.

And I am not complaining.  Like most folks my age I have a few chronic medical conditions.  Much to the shock of both myself and the cardiologist, I have a lot of plaque in my arteries.  Bad genes.  I have asthma and allergies.  Not my fault.  I have arthritic changes going on in my lower back.  Ditto.

It's frustrating because I really didn't do any of this stuff to myself.  As the cardiologist says, "What am I gonna do?  Tell you to quit smoking? Take up exercise? Lose 50 pounds?"  I'm very lucky that all of these issues are being followed and managed well by an armada of exquisitely gifted people in white coats.  My biggest issue is the asthma especially in this heat.  And if that's the worst that happens to me I will be truly blessed.  Check that.  I am truly blessed.

But, like every sane person, I didn't want to be any where in the same Area Code as the "Big C."  Luckily, I wasn't there for long.  19's office called to say that the biopsy revealed that the spot was pre-cancerous.  No golf or other prolonged exposure to sun on that incision cite for a week.  Otherwise, see you in September.

I'm not going to die from skin cancer.  At least not today I'm not.  I'm blessed.  And I know it.

And now maybe 19 will go back to calling me "Paul" again.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

"I did not say she was innocent.  I just said there was not enough evidence.  If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be."

                                                    Jennifer Ford, a member of the jury that acquitted Casey Anthony

By whatever criterion you would care to devise, Casey Anthony was one hell of an unsympathetic defendant.  Most of us, well, all of us, cannot imagine partying, and otherwise making a spectacle of oneself, if our child had disappeared.  2 year old Caylee Anthony was missing, dead actually, and Casey's out getting tattoos and cavorting with numerous men as if she no longer had a care in the world?  Casey Anthony sure looked like she was guilty of killing little poor little Caylee.  Indeed, she looked for all the world like an intemperate head case, a less stable version of Lindsay Lohan, the kind of barfly that sensible young men would do well to avoid but inevitably do not.  And the State of Florida proved that she came from a family that was, to use the current catch-all definition, "dysfunctional."

But that's not murder.

I am no criminal lawyer.  Nor do I play one on TV.  And while I didn't follow the case like some people did, it always seemed to me that the case was overcharged.  Which means nothing in a certain sense in that prosecutors typically charge a defendant with anything and everything they can think of in hopes of getting at least a plea or conviction on a lesser included offense.  Not to go all pedantic on you but a lesser included offense is an offense that is a constituent element of the charge with the highest penalty.  To put it very simply, and making up a criminal statute to do it, if I attempted to murder you, I at least assaulted you, assault being the lesser included offense of the charge of attempted murder.  And it is unknown, at least to me, if they offered Anthony a deal to plead out to a lesser offense or not.  I'm guessing that the State had no choice but to go all in, given the glare of publicity surrounding the case.

Which leads me to the next question.  What made this murder trial a national issue?  If Nancy Grace hadn't sunk her fangs into Anthony's backside I submit to you that we might have never heard about this case.  Don't get me wrong.  The death of a child, any child, is a grievous and pitiable loss.  What reasonably sentient parent wouldn't be wild with grief or worry over a lost child?  And the thought of poor Caylee being buried by the side of the road while her Mother disported herself like unto a white trash version of Paris Hilton is hard to reconcile.  No, there is a lot to dislike about Casey Anthony.

But that's not murder.

And children are killed every day.  Often at the hands of a parent or-forgive me-caregiver and nobody hears about it.  At least it is safe to say that the abuse and murder of children does not ordinarily throw the media into a frenzy.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, we have CNN's Nancy Grace largely to thank for turning this case into a circus and inflaming the court of public opinion against the Defendant, who granted didn't exactly help herself on that score with her reprehensible conduct. But you don't convict a person of capital felony murder because of  behavior in saloons that might cause Salome to blush.  You have to have evidence.  And the State couldn't prove causation or time of death. That's pretty big.  It is hard to sell a murder charge with only circumstantial evidence in an age where folks are used to seeing the genius cops on TV wrap things up in a hour with computers and microscopes.

When O.J. Simpson was acquitted in his trial, it was said by some that it was proof that the legal system doesn't work.  Well, under the Constitution the burden of proof is on the State to prove guilt.  When it doesn't sustain that burden the Defendant gets to "go home" as my criminal lawyer friends say.

And for Nancy Grace, a lawyer who professes faith in the legal system, to say after the verdict that"[s]omewhere the devil is dancing tonight" is reprehensible and unprofessional and panders to the lowest common denominator.  Check that.  It would be unprofessional if she were using her training and experience to do straight up legal reporting.  She is not.  It is strictly show business.  She is to legal reporting as Rush Limbaugh is to politics.  So I take that back.  Sorta. 

Did Casey Anthony get away with murder?  Only she knows that for sure.  The juror quoted described their task correctly.  Because innocence is not a legal concept.  It is a moral concept.  The question before the jury was whether there was enough evidence to prove that Casey Anthony was guilty of the crimes for which she was charged.  Period.  And the jury ruled that there was not. 

Like it or not, like Casey Anthony or not, that's the way the system works. 

May God have mercy on her soul. 

Sunday, July 03, 2011

My 4th of July Feeling

I got up bright and early Saturday morning.  I had some coffee and glanced at the paper.  I got a bottle of water, I powered up the camera and headed out the door en route to Van Buren Street next door.  I very quickly noticed that something seemed amiss. 

There were no cops.  There were no barricades at the top of the hill.  There were no......runners.  Seeing as how nothing much gets past me, I quickly suspected that the annual Firecracker Fast 5 K race was actually going to be run on the 4th of July this year and not on Saturday.  A quick visit to the Internet confirmed my suspicion.  Thus began, in such an inauspicious fashion, my Fourth of July weekend.

Granted as far as screwups go, I have committed far worse.  But I have to think that I must have looked pretty stupid standing out on Van Buren with Nikon Senior as the only other folks out at that hour seemed to be the usual yard sale type ladies going up and down the street looking at the classifieds as they drove.  Which seems more dangerous than texting and driving if you think about it.

This weekend is going to be a scorcher.  My friend Marge over in Jackson, distraught as she is after losing a jury trial last week, has rethought her earlier plan to go lie in the street.  Too damn hot.  So some good did come from this.  I would hate to lose her.  Especially in such a ridiculous fashion.

My plans are pretty simple.  NV and the boys are coming over Saturday night.  She has graciously included me in  celebrating the happy fact that her oldest boy Paul got into the Honors College at the University of Arkansas.  The young man wants me to cook hamburgers on the grill.  OK, son.  You got it. 

Other than that, going to play a little golf, watch the Gentleman's Final tomorrow morning at Wimbledon and join friends for dinner.  Maybe try to catch up on my reading. 

And take pictures of the runners on Monday morning.

We do take all of this for granted, you and I.  I have written about this before but it bears repeating on the 4th of July.  I do not understand the campaign rhetoric that suggests that our freedoms are somehow being "eroded."  I can pretty much do whatever I damn well please as long as I can afford it, it doesn't hurt anybody else and is otherwise legal.  So can you.

I can have whoever I want over to my house.  I can pretty much keep anybody out.  Assuming they are not carrying both a badge and a warrant that is.  I can watch what I want to on TV.  I can go to church to hear a patriotic sermon on Sunday or I can refuse to go because I find patriotic sermons stupid and/or borderline dangerous.  I can read whatever I can put my hands on.  An old friend called me late last night.  We talked for sometime.  Unlike my latest  pro se lunatic, I reasonably believe that my phone is not tapped.  I can stand out on the street with a camera without being questioned by the authorities.  Indeed, there were none to found when I stepped out early Saturday morning.

We take our freedoms for granted.  But that's different from being paranoid about them.  We take them for granted because we can. 

That's because all of the men and women out in the Veteran's Cemeteries across the world wore the uniform in defense of rights and freedoms we enjoy today. 

I have a couple of buddies who served in Iraq.  I'm going to send them a message Monday thanking them for their service. 

I can't think of a better way to celebrate the 4th of July. 

Friday, July 01, 2011

Due Diligence

The question of how a relatively small time operator like Frank McCourt managed to buy one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sports is a fair one.  Certainly McCourt was a wealthy man having made most of his money in real estate development-parking lots mostly-in the Boston area.  But he wasn't Steinbrenner level rich. 

Indeed, McCourt tried to buy the Boston Red Sox and was turned down.  He also tried to buy the Los Angeles Angels back when they were happy to be from Anaheim and was likewise turned down.  The reason?  He didn't have enough money.  Or at least he wasn't considered sufficiently liquid to become a player in that world.

And yet, in 2004 McCourt managed to "buy" the Dodgers with only 9 million of his own money.  The rest of the financing for the 430 million dollar deal came from Bank of America, Fox and-get this-Major League Baseball.  That's right. MLB loaned McCourt 75 million to help him join the club.  As an aside this would make MLB a creditor as well as the trade association that is most likely going to try to seize ownership of the Dodgers from McCourt and his numerous corporate alter egos.  Some might find this to be a conflict of interest.  Some, myself included, might find this hilarious.  Talk amongst yourselves.

So how in the name of Calvin Griffith did this deal get done?  I have a couple of theories.

First of all, compared to the NBA and the NFL, the baseball owners are considered to be for the most part, well, idiots.  Twas ever thus. As the perpetually cranky Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin once said, " If it were raining soup, baseball's owners would be standing outside with forks."

The rumor at the time the Dodgers were put on the market by Rupert Murdoch was that Mark Cuban was interested in getting into baseball.  Cuban, the owner of the recently crowned NBA World Champion Dallas Mavericks, was in those days frequently fined by NBA Commissioner David Stern for his sideline antics and post-game tirades about officiating.  The story is that the thought of Mark Cuban elbowing his way into "the club"sent MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and some of the other MLB owners straight for the Mylanta.  These guys thought McCourt would be a better fit than the brash young owner of the Mavericks. 

The second theory is that the whole economy at that time was running on the foolish assumption that real estate was forever going to appreciate.  My guess is that McCourt, like many other people during that halcyon time who put up real estate as collateral for loans that they couldn't afford -in his case parking lots in the Boston area-looked good on paper.  Well we know what happened don't we?  Real property values went through the floor taking the economy along with it.

Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan said something on ESPN's Sports Reporters to the effect that the folks in Boston were on to McCourt all along and that Bud Selig is getting exactly what he deserves.  Some people in the Commissioner's office have said that maybe, just maybe, they should done a better job of due diligence when Frank McCourt first hiked his skirt at MLB.  Ya think?

I bet Mark Cuban, who has recently been quoted as saying that he wants nothing to do with the Dodgers mess, is looking pretty good in retrospect.  He may have a big mouth but he's got a ring.  And he can pay his bills. 

I bet he looks pretty good.  Especially on paper.