Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

The literary world will no doubt shudder at this news.  But I was too busy cooking and cleaning to fool with the blog this weekend.  Anyway, here's a link to an essay I wrote that ran in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette yesterday.  Hope you like it.  All is calm.  All is bright. 

Happy New Year!

Talk amongst yourselves until I get back.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I was on my porch watering the flowers when my neighbor called out to me.  He wanted to know what I thought was going to happen in light of the recent mass murders in Connecticut.  I told him that while I really didn't know, I thought that the national mood on gun laws in this country had changed and that Congress or the President might take some action to ban or restrict at least some types of weapons and/or multiple round storage devices.

Matt looked down at the ground and shook his head ruefully. 

"I just hope that the government doesn't try to confiscate our guns, " he said.  Now Matt is a good guy.  He is also a smart guy.  A resident at the medical school down the road.  The last time I was in his house I didn't notice a poster of Wayne LaPierre in his kitchen.  And so I viewed this as an opportunity to teach.  I cut the water off and parked myself on the hood of my car. 

"Well, let's think about this Matt," I said.  "Even if 'the government' (I made air-quotes with my fingers around those two words) were so inclined who do you think would confiscate everybody's guns?"

"I dunno," he said.  "The ATF?"

"Not possible.  They don't have enough people.  Same thing with the FBI.  For that matter, the Little Rock police can barely keep up with property offenses in this neighborhood.  They couldn't possibly 'confiscate' everybody's weapons.  This is not possible."

Matt is a quiet thoughtful type.  I could tell he was rolling this around in his head. 

"Do you know what the state of the law is on this issue?"

"No," he said.

"The United States Supreme Court has ruled that while the government cannot ban outright the sale of guns, they expressly did not rule on the extent to which they may be regulated.  Hell, the Second Amendment itself refers to a 'well-regulated militia' which strongly implies, at least to me, that the Founding Fathers recognized the need some sort of regulation on this issue.  Hell, hunters have limits on how many ducks they can shoot in a day.  There's a government regulation on use of a gun.  Right?" 

Matt allowed as how I had given him food for thought and went back inside his house. 

At least Matt wasn't talking crazy unlike the fools that my friend Dennis was forced to endure at a recent Christmas party.  Now Dennis is no Commie pinko fag.  He is former Special Forces and police officer.  He is a boxer and legally carries a concealed weapon.  He has a healthy respect for weapons that his background has given him.  He is also about the last guy on Earth you would want to mess with. 

 "I was at this party the other night, " Dennis said. "And these guys-intelligent well-to-do folks mind you-were talking about how they needed to have assault weapons.  So I asked the guy that was doing the most talking what in the world he needed an assault weapon for."

"What did he say?" I asked him.

"He said he needed it to defend his property.  I told him that he didn't need an AR-15 to defend his property.  That he needed to dial 911. Besides, you can't just go and shoot somebody just because he's on your property. Guess what he said then?"

"I bet I can guess but go ahead."

"He said people needed assault weapons to defend themselves against the government or in case of an invasion."

"Ah, the Red Dawn scenario.  My friend's kid went to see it.  He said he felt like he had to deprogram him afterwards."

"I told him that owning assault weapons wouldn't help.  'You're outnumbered and you don't have tactical skills.  You're just a guy with a toy.' is what I told him and let it go at that."

The point of these two stories is to demonstrate the extent to which the NRA has intoxicated otherwise sensible people with both paranoia about gun regulation and the notion that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is sacrosanct.  Even in light of the recent massacre in Newtown. 

The weapon used in the Newtown tragedy is designed to kill or maim other humans quickly and efficiently.  Nobody other than law enforcement and the military.  I get hunting.  I get personal safety.

I don't get a felt need for exotic weaponry to defend one's self from scenarios that are exceedingly unlikely.  This is crazy.

Besides, like big Dennis says, the kind of person that feels a need for an AR-15 is outnumbered anyway.  He may be outnumbered by his neighbors. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Slaughter Of The Holy Innocents

It happened again last week.  Last Friday, a young man armed with a  Bushmaster .223 caliber rifle, two other weapons and what police described as enough ammunition to kill 450 people shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where he proceeded to methodically kill 26 people.  20 of them were children.

The mind can scarcely grasp the depth of the grief of the friends and relatives of the departed.  After all, you expect the school bus to bring your child home.  You expect to see your wife come through the front door after work.  You don't suspect for 2 minutes that some maniac will arrive at what is on most days a haven of safety and blow your loved ones to Kingdom Come.  Then again, you don't expect to get shot at the movies or at a political rally either.

But it happens in this country.  It happens far more often here than anywhere else in the industrialized world.

The human heart seeks answers.  A casual glance at Facebook or the Internet will steer to the wrong ones.  Perhaps the most completely inane observation came from our own former Governor and nominal Christian who said, that we shouldn't "be so surprised" when "we have systematically removed God from our schools."

Now I cannot adequately square up the notion of a kind and benevolent God with one that would allow the wanton slaughter of innocents, either in this present age or in the days of Herod.  But I am comfortable saying that the God in my Bible doesn't allow children to die out of spite.  But then again, why are we surprised that this idiocy came out the mouth of the Huckster?  After all, he once claimed that God was in favor of capital punishment because Jesus didn't save Himself on the cross.

Let us be clear.  Those innocents died primarily for one reason and one reason only.  In the United States we allow the deranged the technological means to engage in mass destruction.  Any other explanation that presupposes the hand of a Higher Power in this is superstitious nonsense.

I know lots of hunters and other gun owners.   They are safe, law abiding people who treat their weapons with respect.  But not with reverence.

I know that the Supreme Court has recently ruled that the Government cannot ban gun ownership because of the 2nd Amendment.  I don't have a problem with that.  I do have a problem with civilians having access to assault weapons or other weapons with large clips that can carry many rounds.  Those weapons have only one purpose and that is to kill humans.  Maybe the Government can't ban gun ownership but it sure as hell can regulate the types of weapon me or my neighbors can buy, 2nd Amendment or no 2nd Amendment.

The NRA tells us that such regulation is an impermissible assault on or freedoms.  This is, of course, nonsense.  I have the right to give my views to the President.  I do not have the right to barge into the Oval Office to give Barack Obama a piece of my mind.  I have a right to apply for a Driver's License.  I do not have the right to have one.  Or to have one that is free of restrictions if certain conditions are present.  I have a 5th Amendment right to contest a parking ticket.  I do not have the right to a jury trial.

The 2nd Amendment is no more or no more less sacrosanct than other Amendments to the Constitution of which  reasonable regulations concerning the enjoyment thereof have passed Constitutional muster time and time again.

I respect guns.  I do not revere them.  To revere them is to engage in a fetish as much as anything.

And even though the Founding Fathers well knew that the Constitution of the United States was purchased by blood, I cannot believe that they for one minute would consider that the death of 20 kids was part of the inevitable price of freedom.

This has to stop.  It has to stop now.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

The Advent Season will be a little darker this particular Sunday.  I've been busy with family stuff and so there will be no MSF today.

However, you can read Rev. Heath Bradley's response to former Governor and nominal Christian Mike Huckabee's earlier odious and idiotic remarks about the shooting in Connecticut.  It's better than anything I could have written anyway.

Hit the link:

I love it when Methodist preachers get-forgive me-hot under the collar.

Talk amongst yourselves until I get back. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I reviewed a performance of Messiah for the local paper a week or so ago.  The concert was held in a local church which is not an unusual venue for choral music around here.  After all, most churches are equipped to handle crowds and musicians.  And, in my experience the local churches that open themselves up to the public in this fashion enjoy receiving guests for the evening.

It is not unusual on such occasions for a church official, the Senior Pastor or Music Director to greet the crowd and welcome them to the show.  That's certainly appropriate.  It's their church.  It's their building.  But that's not what happened prior to Messiah the other night.  The associate pastor at the church got up an gave an invocation prior to the performance. 

I wasn't offended by this exactly.  After all, it was his church and his building.  And certainly, an invocation offered up in a church is less offensive to me than one broadcast prior to kickoff at the football game.  Which they pretty much don't do around here anymore.  At least not to my immediate recollection.  And in a church one can reasonably expect clergy to, well, pray.

But even though we were gathered together in a place of worship that night, we weren't gathered together at a religious service.  It was a musical performance.  They charged admission.  The paper sent me over there to review it.  It doesn't review Easter cantatas or Lessons and Carols at Christmas.  This was different.  You charge money you run the risk of getting critiqued in the paper.  Conversely, you lay an egg during the church's Advent concert and somebody maybe bitches to the preacher's wife.

Handel ran into this problem in reverse back in the day.   Some folks in Handel's time were completely scandalized at the notion of charging money for a performance of a "sacred oratorio" in a public setting.  It didn't much matter to Handel for whom a buck was a buck.  The opera business that paid the bills was starting to peter out and Handel was experiencing a cash flow problem when he was commissioned to hammer Messiah into creation.  As we know, Messiah proved to be big box office then as now.  Still, there were folks back then whose noses were completely disjointed at the notion of the commercialization of religious music.

How quaint.  "Christian music" is a huge industry in our time.  This is despite the fact that most of it is not particularly Christian and certainly not music.

I guess the reason that the invocation prior to the recent performance of Messiah struck me as inappropriate is the same reason that I have little use for invocations prior to sporting events.  Just as there are people like myself that do not go the football game to be preached to, it is a good bet that there were some folks in attendance that found a religious invocation offensive, church setting or no.  You don't have to be particularly religious to appreciate Messiah.  Hell, Handel wasn't particularly religious and he wrote the damn thing.

There is a time and place for everything.  And a public event where they are charging admission is not the time nor the place for an invocation.  Even in a church.

Have I ever mentioned that I hate the holidays?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I remember the call.  GiGi over at the women's shelter called to tell me that Joe Womack wanted to make a donation in my mother's name.  Boy, that was typical Mr. Joe.

It was thoughtful.  Joe had 5 daughters, bless him.  He knew I was the President of the Board at Women and Children First.  He was surrounded his entire life by women and children.  It probably made sense to him.  And he probably took it no further than that. 

It was useful.  Mr. Joe was an engineer and was nothing if not practical.  Until they are authorized by the Comptroller of the Treasury to print money, WCF will always need help from the public.  As the old saying goes, "A gentleman is also a useful man."  Mr. Joe was the poster child for the expression. 

It was kind.  Mr. Joe cared about his church and his fellow parishioners.  Despite being sick with what turned out to be his second round with pneumonia he took communion to the home bound.  He had to have felt terrible.  Indeed, one of the neighbors called Cathy to tell her that she noticed that he seemed to struggle making the walk from his mailbox to the house.  This was after he had gone to visit a shut-in. 

It was no big deal.  He didn't tell me he was going to do it.  He just looked up the number in the book and took care of it.  He lived and prayed not as the hypocrites.  He just quietly went about doing good.  It occurs to me as I type this that I was supposed to give him a tour of the shelter.  I forgot.  Goddammit. 

Mr. Joe passed away yesterday after existing on some form of life support off and on since January.  I sat by his bed for a couple of hours last Friday so Cathy and the church ladies could have a break.  Vigils are hard.  Been there.  So I got to see him one last time. 

But it was time.  Indeed, how he had managed to live this long was amazing.  I would have checked out last March.  As a friend of mine that used to be a nurse at the VA once told me, "Your number ain't up until it's up."  That makes as much sense as anything I guess.  To try to figure it out would just give you a migraine. 

This much I know.  Never was a father better loved or better cared for by his daughters.  They left absolutely nothing on the playing field.  They fought the good fight by his side.  What a roller coaster this has been for them.  Surely, they are now entitled to a measure of the peace that has been granted unto their Dad. 

I also know that it is a small world.  My late friend Alicia and her family along with other folks in Thibodaux lit candles and sent prayers up for Mr. Joe.  Cathy and the girls sent prayers that way too.  Cathy wants to get in contact with Ronnie.  We can do that.  What an amazing world.  What an incredible year.

Our Jewish friends refer to their departed mothers as being "of blessed memory."  Now Jewish mothers are rightly entitled to a full measure of veneration.  But why should they get all the fun? 

Sometime soon we will gather to say goodbye to and celebrate the life of Joe Womack.  I don't think much about Heaven.  Maybe for Joe it will be a quiet place to read, an empty bathroom and no boyfriends.  Maybe, as Alicia's daughter has suggested, Mr. Joe will get to meet the devout Catholic lady who fretted about him. 

Who knows?  This much I do know. 

The world was a better place because of Mr. Joe. 

Of blessed memory. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

The brief tenure of John L. Smith as the head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks swiftly came to an abrupt and unsurprising end Friday when the University announced that he would not return in that capacity.  A friend of mine wondered why they didn't get rid of him a couple of games ago as Tennessee did Derek Dooley.  My response was that there was no need to rush a foregone conclusion as they stumbled along to a 4-8 record after being picked as high as #8 in pre-season polls.  Although I'm sure it has happened before I can't recall a similar flameout.

Yesterday's game against LSU was a microcosm of what plagued the Razorbacks all year.  Penalties, fumbles and missed field goals.  Mental errors.  These are things that are all properly laid at the feet of the coaching staff.  After all, as LSU's irrepressible Les Miles said after the game, "It's very difficult for me to believe that is not a bowl-eligible football team."

But it ain't. 

Clearly, the Razorbacks were overrated despite losing too many good players from last year's team.  And they were snakebit by injuries all year.  They weren't going to a BCS Bowl under laboratory conditions.  And many Hog fans blame this on John L. Smith.  Or on Jeff Long for hiring John L.  Which, and let me repeat myself here, is unfair. 

In the first place, I blame Bobby Petrino for 90% of this mess.  Contrary to the mythology still extant out there in Hogland, Petrino did not get fired for having an affair with an employee or for lying about it to Long.   He got fired for hiring her as his subordinate.  Long had to fire him for exposing the University to liability to others that were passed over in the hiring process.  Period. 

This put Long in a tough spot.  And he opted to fill it on an interim basis with a man with successful experience as a head coach and who knew the staff and the players.  On paper, this seemed like a good idea.  Sure John L is a goofball.  But he was a goofball at Louisville and Michigan State as well. 

He was also a turnip financially after real estate deals back in the Commonwealth of Kentucky came back to bite him on the ass and forced him to file a bankruptcy during the season.  Smith and Long have both acknowledged that John L advised Long about his financial woes.  But I can't imagine that Long would hire anybody else that had acquired 40 million bucks in unsecured debt.  Then again, it is entirely plausible that John L didn't rightly know himself just how deep in the red he was.   As the old saying goes, a million here, a million there, pretty soon you're talking real money. 

The point being, his financial troubles had to be both humiliating and a very real distraction for John L no matter how much he tried to concentrate on the job at hand.  It just had to be. 

So what now?

CBS Sports has reported that the University hopes to have a replacement for John L within 10 days.  According to the traffic among the journalists and scholars on the Internet message boards like, it is either Jon Gruden, Boise State's Chris Petersen or Arkansas's own Charlie Strong who is doing a bang-up job at, coincidentally, Louisville.  Although if I'm Jeff Long, I'm wondering what must be in the water up there after the last 2 Cardinals coaches he hired (Petrino and John L)blew up high, wide and handsome after they hit the Ozarks. 

But I don't blame John L. Smith for this mess.  And make no mistake, the next guy who comes in, whoever it is, will inherit a mess.  Hog fans will have to be verrrrrry patient because they may be looking at a 3-5 year project. 

I hope John L lands on his feet somewhere.  It can't imagine being 62, flat broke and unemployed.  I  He has been reassigned in the Athletic Department for the time being.  Good.  He needs a job. 

And the next 10 days will be interesting.  However, it shakes out. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Thanksgiving Feeling

I like Thanksgiving.  Turkey Day is pretty low maintenance.  Far better than Christmas.  I had mentioned this to a lady at church the other day.  She responded by encouraging me to focus on the "real meaning" of the season.  Because she is a nice person and meant well, I refrained from telling her that in my view Christmas had become secularized to the point where it had no "real meaning" other than commercial enterprise. 

I am thankful that I know how to keep my mouth shut.  What else am I thankful for?  Let me count the ways. 

I am thankful for my good health, a roof over my head, and financial stability.

I am thankful for all of my friends and family.  I am thankful for all of the wishes for a happy Turkey Day that are buzzing into my phone as I type this.  I am thankful for all of the phone calls I will make and receive today.  I am thankful for my cousin who invited me to lunch today. 

I am thankful for the lives of Alicia Weimer, Wendell Jones, Mrs. Hardin, and Rev. Jon Guthrie the latter of whom was like a second father to me.  As was Mr. Joe, who somehow clings to life over at Baptist.  My friend Carolyn Staley over to the Baptist church has warned me that these things will start coming in waves at this stage in life.  So far, she ain't kiddin'.  Mr. Joe can't possibly last much longer.  But, God will take him in His time, as the Catholics say.  He wants to fight on.  God bless. 

My thoughts are with those who are in pain this Thanksgiving.  Mr. Joe's roller coaster has been tough on his girls.  Ronnie and the family will have Thanksgiving without Alicia.  My friend T is going through a nasty divorce.  The world is a hurting place.  I am thankful for the trust reposed in me by the people who share their pain with me.  It is held in a far more sacred place than the attorney-client privilege. 

I am thankful that things have settled down.  Looking back on it, I was not prepared for the emotional toll that retirement would take on me.  Financially, things are fine.  I have enough of my mother in me to worry about whether I need to save more money.  But then again, my investments guy thinks I am in a position to "get aggressive" whatever that means.  Accordingly, I am thankful, and amused, that they let the likes of me talk to kids about money. 

I am thankful that I am now comfortable with the rhythm of my new life.  I am thankful that I have meaningful work that doesn't take a lot of time and pays a little money.  I am thankful that folks want me to be their lawyer.  Uncle Howard says he was never one to turn down money especially if it came looking for him.  I may practice law again.  I may not.  But I sure have been turning money away lately.  However, I may not be able to turn down the man I am meeting with tomorrow. 

But I can if I want to.  I am thankful for options. 

Something just hit the front door hard.  I'm guessing it is the newspaper stuffed as it is with Holiday ads.  I am thankful that it didn't break anything.  Memo to paperboy:  Take a foot off the fastball why don't you? 

I am thankful for the writing gigs for the paper.  I am thankful to have been asked to read a story for "The Two Jewish Guys Hanukkah Show" at the Clinton Center next Tuesday night. I am thankful for the opportunity to sing the National Anthem for Naturalization Ceremonies.  Such a privilege. I am thankful for the 2 folks who out of the blue encouraged me to write a book last week.  I am thankful for my friend K who thinks this is "a damned good idea."

Boy.  I dunno.  Writing is hard work.  Really it is.  But thanks for the thought.

So, I have much to be thankful for on yet another Thanksgiving Day.  A more grateful man than me does not exist. 

He really doesn't.  And if he does I want to shake that sumbitch's hand. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Reality intrudes.  Will be running late this week. 

The Pulitzer Committee will have to understand.

Talk amongst yourselves until I get back. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Quite frankly, I thought Mitt Romney had a shot.  Best case scenario I had in my head was that President Obama would win in the Electoral College but not by the popular vote.  Which would have caused no end of chaos from the set of Fox News to the Federal Courts.  But I was wrong and it turns out the New York Times' Nate Silver was right.  As I recall, a couple of days before the election Silver's analysis of the polls led him to conclude a 91% chance of Obama getting re-elected in a cakewalk. 

Which is pretty much what happened.

The outcome is said to have stunned the Romney campaign which was so certain of victory that Mr. Romney had not prepared a concession speech.  Indeed, the campaign had purchased a $25,000 fireworks display which they had set to erupt after he was declared the winner. 

Better save it for the 4th of July, Mitt.

Seriously, campaigns at this level are not run by idiots.  No doubt but that this was a winnable race for Mitt Romney.  The economy is still struggling despite the stimulus program that failed to deliver the big bang and increased the deficit.  Obamacare is despised, irrationally so, in some quarters.  This is despite the fact that you hear very little criticism of it from the Insurance and Hospital lobbies, traditionally Republican in orientation, who stand to make millions from it. 

And you have Mr. Obama himself, who seems indifferent toward politics.  This indifference allowed him to be painted as a Kenyan-Muslim communist and incompetent.  This despite a legacy of legislative and battlefield accomplishments that would have been the envy of many Presidents. 

So how did Mitt screw this thing up so badly?

The post-mortems that I have read yield many theories.  First of all, the Romney campaign was underfunded.  This is astonishing when you consider the money that the Republicans typically have to bring to bear in elections and the vast personal wealth of Mr. Romney himself.  But the Romney campaign was short of money after the bruising primary which he had to endure. So the campaign was in full fundraising mode throughout the general election when the candidate should have been shaking hands and kissing babies.  And Mr. Romney didn't contribute to his own campaign.  Which I find astonishing.  And telling. 

Part of the problem was Mr. Romney himself who had flaws as a candidate as well.  As Governor of Massachusetts he instituted mandatory health insurance for its citizens.  As candidate for President he opposed it.  As Governor, he supported women's rights to choose.  As candidate for President he opposed it.  He proposed doing away with FEMA and making disaster relief a concern for the states.  After Hurricane Sandy, he changed his mind on that too.  And wrongly enough, he was reviled by some for his religion, a faith which clearly sustains the man. 

But in order to get the nomination, he had to take extreme right wing positions in order to appease the nutbar faction that hijacked the GOP in 2010.  And to win the general election he had to moderate these stands.  Further, its hard to relate to a guy who is building a house in Florida with elevators for the family's Cadillacs.  Hell, turns out all Barack Obama had to do was be Barack Obama. 

Secondly, it seems to me that the GOP assumed that it had the white vote sewed up and that this would carry the day.  While they might have carried middle aged white males in suburbs and in rural areas, the Dems cleaned house with women, gays, Asians, and Hispanics to go along with their edge with black voters.  How could they not have seen trouble on the horizon?  Especially after the Hurricane and after the completely idiotic remarks regarding rape and pregnancy uttered by a couple of their candidates for Senate.

But no.  All accounts have the Rs being shocked on Tuesday night.  No concession speech prepared.  What hubris. 

So what now? 

The Republicans doubled down on crazy and on appeals to the worst instincts if its base.  And it clearly didn't work.  Their traditional base is outnumbered.  Math is math no matter what the bloviators on Fox say. 

It will be interesting.  The President's hand looks pretty good right now.  And there's no telling what cards he's got up his sleeve.  If the GOP fails to compromise and the country goes over the Simpson-Bowles cliff, the electorate will know who to blame.  But that is for tomorrow.

The question for today remains.

Wonder what the hell they did with the fireworks?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I try to stay away from politics around here.  There are other bloggers that are really into it.  They are better at it.  But I guess it is hard to avoid it with the Presidential election staring us in the face in a couple of days.  That and something I wrote for Bourbon and Boots here recently has caused me to reflect on the current political landscape.  It was mainly for fun.  You can read it here if you feel so led:

In the BB piece I discussed Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards's last stand for public office.  It was against the Republican nominee David Duke who had past relevant experience as the Grand Wizard-or whatever-of the Ku Klux Klan down there.  I wrote about how the Republican establishment was aghast at the prospect of Duke actually winning the election and how much of it worked against him.

How quaint. 

Here in Arkansas we have 2 Republicans running for re-election to the Statehouse who are on the record as saying that slavery was not all that bad.    One of them has gone so far as to say that "the peculiar institution," as Lincoln called it, was a blessing to black folks. I know lots of African-Americans.  Never heard a single one refer to slavery as one of the blessings conferred on them by history.  Another GOP stalwart has said that the concept of public  education is derived from the Communist Manifesto.  Yet another one of the GOP's candidates has written a book called "God's Law" which posits that all Muslims should be deported and that capitol punishment is appropriate for unruly children. 

While the state Republican Party has rightly described these notions as "highly offensive" it has taken no further action saying that the candidates involved are entitled "to their right to freedom of expression and thought."  That and there is apparently no political downside in Arkansas to candidates going on the record against freedom of religion if you are a Muslim and for judicially imposed infanticide. 

This is madness.  But at least I believe full well that these local crackers are speaking from the courage of their convictions.  They are just ignorant-assed convictions.

On the other hand, I don't think that Mitt Romney believes 1/3 of the shit he's been putting out on the stump lately. 

Romney is on the record as saying that FEMA should be abolished and disaster relief should be left to the states.  Of course that was before Hurricane Sandy blew through the East Coast causing what was described as "incalculable damage."  ( Query: Do these guys not have access to long term weather forecasts?) Now I do not believe that Romney thinks that Mississippi could have dealt with the BP spill on its own.  Not only that, neither did Mississippi if you will recall.  I do not believe that he is that completely irresponsible.  But I believe that the final days of this campaign have amply proven that Mitt Romney will say anything to get elected. 

Take Ohio for example, a place that benefited greatly from the automotive bailout which Romney opposed.  He couldn't very well stick to his original theory that it didn't work because it did.  So, the campaign is now putting it out there that Chrysler, in exchange for the handout from Uncle Sam, is going to outsource building Jeeps to China. 

This is not true.  The President of Chrysler (undoubtedly a wild eyed communist and security risk as CEOs of major corporations tend to be) put out a statement saying it was not true.  But the Romney campaign, when last I looked, is sticking to this canard. 

When Romney was Governor of Massachusetts he was for universal health care and enforcement of the individual mandate for every person to be covered.  His plan, which was cooked up in conservative think tanks, is pretty much the blue print for the detested Obamacare.  So now he's opposed to it.  Or at least parts of it. 

You get my drift.

I have a friend who used to run a Federal Agency.  He says that everybody hates the government until they need the government.  There are obviously many people that want to vote Barack Obama out of office.  Fine.  I get that.  That is their right.  But I don't think that any reasonable person really believes that Florida should have been left to its own devices  when the housing bubble burst, that the Gulf Coast needed to fend for itself after Katrina or that the people of New Jersey have only to look to their National Guard for assistance.  We damn near experienced a Depression in 2008.  If the government had not intervened into the private sector, the long range effects on a worldwide basis could have been catastrophic.  Even George W. Bush saw the need for intervention by the Fed.  This was a bad thing?

Nobody believes this except hard right lunatics that have an inordinate say about GOP policies that otherwise sensible guys like Mitt Romney have to appease.  And guys like the fools mentioned at the beginning of this post who will likely be elected to the Arkansas General Assembly despite giving voice to complete and utter nonsense.  For which there is apparently no penalty.

The wonderful Charles P. Pierce puts it simply.  He reminds people to pay attention to what candidates say while out on the trail because, not to put too fine a point on it, they are saying these things to get you to vote for them.  Duh! 

We will muddle through some how.  I think that President Obama will be re-elected.  I believe that the nursing home, hospital and pharmacy lobbies will manage to appeal to what passes for reason in the minds of some of our state legislators before they defund Medicare or something equally calamitous.

But would the Republicans oppose David Duke if he ran for office today?  I'm not so sure. 

At least not in Arkansas.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Suffice it to say that all is not well in the Razorback Nation.  The Hogs are winless in LR for the first time in memory.  Granted, they only grace Central Arkansas with their presence twice a year now. 

But zip is zip. And one of their losses was to noted power University of Louisiana-Monroe. 

My friend Richard places the blame squarely on me since the common denominator, in his opinion, is my presence at both games.  This is despite the fact that Richard Pence and I have been attending games together for 20 years or so with a high degree of success.  That and the fact that he was there as well for both losses.  So maybe its him.

But the fact of the matter is that the 2012 edition of the Arkansas Razorbacks is, to understate the case, just not very good.  Indeed, I cannot recall any other team winding up being this bad after a ranking in the Top Ten.  Maybe there was one.  But I don't recall it.  And I have a pretty good memory for such extraneous matters. 

As for me, the blame for this disaster is obvious and it ain't on John L. Smith hapless though he may be.  The fact of the matter is that, although it should seem obvious that these guys were seriously overrated, the reason this season is shaping up to be a historic cluster lies solely at the feet of Bobby Petrino.  How can a team function under an "interim" coach?  And an interim coach with massive debt problems at that?  What a disaster on any level you care to consider.

Still, although I have no particular use for Ole Miss and was sorry to see them pull out a last second victory as the clock wore down, I have to admit that they were the better team.  The Razorbacks were disorganized on offense, one of the alleged strengths of the team.  Tyler Wilson should have been intercepted at least 4 times.  He got flagged for intentional grounding twice.  And the defense, though improved, gave up chunks of yardage at completely inopportune moments.  That they managed to damn near pull off a victory despite shooting themselves in the foot on a systematic and continuous basis all day might be cause for some solace in the heart and minds of the Razorback faithful.  But probably not much.

Me?  I don't much care.  I enjoy going "out with the crowd" to mix my sporting metaphors.  It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and there was nothing that appealed to me more than walking down Van Buren to the old stadium.  It has been a really hectic week.  2 days in Thibodaux, 1 day flying back, catching up at work, birthday stuff and shooting pictures Thursday night made for a crazy week.  Going down to watch the Hogs play felt "normal" to me. 

I needed some normal.  And it is on the way.  Got some writing and music reviews coming up.  The Econ teacher at St. Mary's wants me to come back to talk to the classes.  Life is good.  Just need to chill a bit.  Still got a lot of stuff in my head about last week I need to process.  But process it I will do.  And hopefully next Sunday's entry will be infinitely more interesting than today's is.

Anyway, I don't see the Hogs winning another game this season although it would be just like LSU to gag it away when they meet up in Fayetteville the day after Thanksgiving.  The Tigers are capable of that kind of bad ju-ju. 

A man can hope can't he? 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Perpetual Light

I knew it when I heard it at 5:30 Friday morning.  Nothing good ever comes by text at that hour of the morning.  I put on my glasses and fumbled for the phone.  Message from Cindy. 

"Our Angel is in Heaven."

Alicia Weimer passed away at around 4 AM.  I spoke with Ronnie before I left for work that day.  He allowed as how everybody was doing "pretty good."  After all, she had suffered greatly the last couple of weeks.  Nobody wants that for a loved one.  Better that they go on in peace rather than to exist in pain. 

She was diagnosed with the myeloma last September.  I met them on November 6th.  I had it in my head that it was sometime in October.  During one of our last conversations, Alicia wanted me to find out the exact date.  It was important to her.  I recalled that I had met them at the hospital on my way to shooting the Unity Walk for Just Communities of Arkansas.  I called ny friend Kerri who organizes the damn thing.  She confirmed it.

November 6.  We almost made it a year. 

It is hard to comprehend.  A little over a month ago we were out for dinner on Ronnie's birthday.  She had put on some makeup.  She was energized and happy.

Now this.  And so fast.  I had hoped to see her again before she passed.  But as my friend Susan said, Alicia and I had said our goodbyes that night at UAMS. 

There is that.

Tomorrow I fly to New Orleans and then head over to Thibodaux where I will pay tribute to a brave little lady who taught me a lot at a time in my life when I needed a teacher.

During our last conversation that night at UAMS, I reminded her of how we ended our first meeting, the one where all she and Ronnie knew was that some guy from Tulane named Paul was coming by.

She had taken my hands and said, "God has sent you here."

"I prefer a simpler explanation," was my response.

"You don't understand," she replied. "I need to see the hand of God in everything now."

Alicia nodded her head at the recollection of our first meeting.

"I still need to see the hand of God in everything," she said. "Even now."

It is my hope that Alicia is now face to face with the God that sustained her both in Little Rock and at the hour of her death. 

May perpetual light shine upon her. 

No MSF tomorrow. 

Talk amongst yourselves. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vox Populi: Standing In Line At The DMV With The Newspaper Columnist

NC: " So, have you found work?"

Me: "Huh?"

NC: " Are you working?"

Me: " Yeah.  A little bit."

NC: " Like going to an office somewhere and doing stuff?"

Me: "Yes, actually I am."

NC: "Well. just wondered. It would seem weird for you not to be doing anything."

Me:  " No really.  I'm doing stuff." 

I like NC.  We're both from Mabelvale.  We have a common bond.

He gets his tags.  I get called over to get my pic made for my Driver's License.

NC: " You always got that IPad with you?"

Me: " Nope.  For example, I don't take it to church.  But I don't go to church much amymore."

NC: " So this is working out for you."

Me: " Absolutely."

He turned and walked away.

NC: " Later, brother..."

Yes I have "found work." But I don't need work.

And as I told one of my little lawyer friends who pulled me over yesterday at CLE to express his amazement that I am no longer doing what I used to do:

" I am lucky beyond measure," I said. " And I do not take my good fortune for granted." 

I am the luckiest man on this planet.  I do not take it for granted or as my due. 

But me and NC?  We did pretty good for a couple of boys from Mabelvale. 

I will brag about that. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

The literary world will once again shed a silent tear as this space goes dark today.  I have another project that I need to finish.  It allegedly will pay money. 

Talk amongst yourselves. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

"Can you come over the hospital?" Ronnie said.  " We just got some terrible news." 

Alicia had been admitted to University Hospital after complaining of fever and pain in her bones that had descended upon her the day before.  Initially, it was thought that the chemo she had been given to combat the myeloma was causing the pain.  The fever, well, they didn't really know where that was coming from.  Thus began the scans and blood work that resulted in the call from the hospital a week from last Saturday. 

I had been dreading this moment from the day I met Ronnie and Alicia Weimer on that beautiful Fall day last year.  Although she went into partial remission on at least two occasions, cancer is awfully scary stuff despite being treated for it at one of best places in the world for treatment of multiple myeloma. 

Since starting the chemo last November she had been through a sinus infection that hospitalized her back home in Thibodaux.  She developed a weird rash all over her body.  She got pneumonia.  She still had a trace of that in her lungs when they returned to Little Rock last month.  Still, she seemed to be doing fairly well on this trip.  3 weeks ago we celebrated Ronnie's birthday at Cafe Laredo with some of their other Little Rock friends.  But a week or so ago back in the RV park where they like to stay she woke up  with severe pain in her back and ribs. 

I don't know much about cancer.  But I had a bad feeling about this bone pain stuff.

Alicia was sitting up in her bed when I got there.  I put my arm around their daughter Cindy.  Ronnie came over and shook my hand.

"Go sit over there," he said, pointing to the spot he had vacated. " You need to talk with my sweetie."  He left the room. 

I stood over her bad and took both her hands. 

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Please sit down."

I sat down by her bed.  She took my hand.  Cindy, the daughter,  covered her mouth and left the room.

"We got some tough news tonight.  Although they can't say for sure until some of the other scans come in, they believe that the myeloma is everywhere in my system now."

"Oh God," I said. "I am so sorry."  I couldn't think of anything else to say.  How inadequate. 

"I need you to help me make some decisions."

"Me?  I'm just a lawyer.  You need to talk to your family."

"I will.  But you're a good listener.  You're good at helping people with problems.  And at this point, you're family."

"OK.  I'll do my best."

She looked over my shoulder out the window.  Over across Markham where the church steeples peek through the trees of Pulaski Heights.  She always did like looking at the trees.  Much different look than back home in Thibodaux.  After a bit she returned her eyes to mine. 

" They can try another type of chemo.  But it's pretty toxic and I would have to do it here.  Maybe it would buy me a little more time.  Maybe I would die in Little Rock.  It's pretty clear that this thing is going to do me in.  I want to spend as much time with my family as I can while I still feel pretty good.  If they can't fix me at UAMS I can't be fixed.  And I don't want to die in Little Rock.  What do you think, Paul?"

I was struck by her serenity.  I was in the presence of the holy.  It took me awhile to find my voice.

"If they can't fix you here you can't be fixed.  If I were you I would go see those grandbabies."

She rolled over and looked at the ceiling.  Silently, she nodded her head.  Ronnie came back in.  I got up. He took my seat.

I took her hand as I walked by her bed.

"I will see you again," I said.  "And not ..." I pointed to Heaven. Not that I am much of a candidate for entry there.  But she grasped my larger geographical metaphor.

"Good," she said.  "I love you."

"I love you too."

As I left I noticed she and Ronnie were holding hands.  Just as they have since they were young sweethearts. 

The test results confirmed the doctor's preliminary guess.  There is a mass on her pelvis.  It is "active and growing."  The fluid they drained from around her lungs is full of myeloma.  There is no use.  It's time for Alicia to go home. 

I visited with everybody the day before they left.  By then her 3 sons had arrived to help her make her decision.  I allowed as how Alicia must have felt good about going home.

"It's bittersweet," she said. " We came to like Little Rock.  It's such a beautiful place.  So different from home. We made new friends.  Everybody has been so good to us.  Here at UAMS.  The Methodists and the Baptists came to see us.  It's bittersweet."

Ronnie announced that he and the boys were heading back to Maumelle to boil shrimp and drink beer.  This seemed like a perfectly Louisiana thing to do under the circumstances.  He gave me a hug before he left.

"I'm going to miss you, my buddy," he said, with tears in his eyes.

"I'm going to miss you too."  And with that he left.

Alicia and Cindy were staring at each other.

"What?" I said.

"Ronnie Weimer does not hug men," Alicia said.

" I'll be damned," I said. "I'm honored.  I guess."

It's cool.  What happens in Little Rock stays in Little Rock.  

Cindy will keep me posted.  I hope to see her Mom again before things get really bad.  As they will.  And I hope that I am granted just a small measure of the strength and courage possessed by Alicia Weimer when my time is at hand. 

I miss my Louisiana friends already but  I thank God for the privilege of this past year.

And that holy conversation by Alicia's bed that Saturday night.

But like the lady said.  It's bittersweet.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I hadn't seen my buddy L in some time despite the fact that she lives about a 3 wood away.  Then again, she stays pretty busy lawyering.  And well, I do not.  So when she texted me out of the blue offering to come over to share a bottle of wine she had gotten for her birthday, I said, "Come on down!"

When she arrived I warmed up some soup.  She asked me what was new with me.  I told her that there wasn't much new with me worth telling.  I opened the wine.  I cut up some bread.

"What's new with you?" I asked.

"Well, still busy at work.  Elton and I are still seeing each other."


"And oh!  I converted to Judaism."

"You did what?"


We went into the living room to eat.

"OK," I said.  "I'm sorry but I need to hear all about conversion thing.  I don't think I've ever known a convert."

" Well," she said. "It has been a long process for me.  But the older I got the less I became convinced that God would create a human, much less his own Son, with the full knowledge that his Son would be executed in such a cruel fashion as crucifixion in order to gain salvation for the race He created in the first place.  Why would God require a blood sacrifice?  The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed from a literal perspective."

"The concept of blood atonement has been the cause of much human suffering, even to this day," I said. " There's no doubt about that.  And I have have often wondered why the Scriptures didn't just have God say ' OK.  I forgive you.'  What kind of God would require the blood sacrifice of his only Son?  What kind of human would require such a horrible thing for that matter?"

" I have thought of that as well.  Either way, the concept strikes me as literally ridiculous." 

"So why believe in God?"

She grew pensive.  She took a sip of her wine.

" I believe in God," she said softly.  " I am a moral person.  I believe in acting justly.  I believe in a higher purpose and in caring for others.  Judaism and the Torah speaks to me in a way that fulfills my needs without depending on....oh I don't know...."

"Reliance on the supernatural?" I asked.

"Yes.  I suppose that's right.  At least not overly so.  Judaism is rooted in the here and now.  I liked that."

She took another sip.  She arched her eyebrows mischievously.  I knew what was coming.

"So," she said.  "You sound a lot like me.  Why do you go back?  You've never struck me as the sort of guy that believes in myths."

"I don't strike girls," I said.

"You're being evasive," she replied.  "You do that you know. You're a funny man.  You use humor to deflect.  I know this about you.  I want you to answer my question."


"I don't believe in myths so much as I have faith in them." I said. " Does that make sense? Not to go all Joseph Campbell on you but there's damn near more truth in Biblical myths than there is too Biblical 'facts.'  Besides, I enjoy spreading my doubts among the Methodists, the Episcopalians and the Baptists nowadays.  The discourse comforts me on occasion."

"I believe you actually told me the truth," she said. 

I shrugged my shoulders.

"An FBI agent friend of mine refers to it as 'leakage.'  You interrogate somebody long enough and eventually some truth leaks out."

I've never been to the Temple before.  Well, I sang in a wedding over there once.  But I was in a room off to the side.  That doesn't count.  I would like to go with my Jewish friend L some time.

But for right now, I will go to church today.  I will hear the Liturgy, observe the symbols and ponder the sermon. 

You never know.  Maybe this will be the day that some truth leaks out. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

"We got in over our heads with land and then the bubble burst and all this land value dropped and we couldn't sustain it."

                 University Of Arkansas Head Football Coach John L. Smith quoted by the AP last July.

I spent a good bit of time last week with the girls in the Economics classes at Mount Saint Mary Academy just up the street from me.  Now, what I know about classical Econ would fill a shot glass.  But the teacher over there told me that the kids were interested in my talking about bankruptcy which she and I both found interesting.  It made us wonder what was going on in some of their homes.  But bankruptcy I know about, having practiced in that area of the law for the length of my career.  I had a blast.  It was great fun to be in a room full of bright young people.  It was fun to be with girls since we have precious few in my family. 

I knew that Arkansas's John L. Smith had filed a Chapter 7 up there in the Fayetteville Division.  And I knew that he had taken a haircut over millions of dollars in real estate investments in Kentucky during the time that he was the Head Coach at Louisville.  But I wish that I had the benefit of the Schedules that John L. filed in his case when I was with the Econ girls.  Because his financial situation today is a metaphor for what damn near put the country in a depression around 2008. 

John L. has unsecured debt in the amount of over 25 million dollars.  I'm guessing that at least a good portion of that indebtedness was secured by something at one time.  Or most likely they represent the outstanding balance on personal guarantees John L. made on certain loans to other entities he had partnered up with. 

He has assets; namely about $1.2,000,000 in retirement accounts that he is trying to claim are exempt from seizure under the Federal exemptions or Homesteads.  I don't know much about that area of the law.  None of the Debtors I ever fooled with had much in retirement savings.  It wasn't an issue for me. 

But what is the most amazing thing to me is that the Head Coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks only has 800 bucks in cash on hand.  He is claiming to run a negative balance each month which explains the 10 grand owed and the monthly payments to America Express.  He's living on his Amex card.

After all these years in the coaching profession, after all that money he made in sports talk radio in Louisville, all the cash the man has to his name is 800 bucks.  He would have to be upwardly mobile to be a turnip.

God, that's depressing.

Because John L. has a reputation for being a good guy.  And contrary to what the scholars and journalists on the Internet boards would have you believe, John L. has a proven track record as a football coach. 

But boy, just about everything that could go wrong, apart from NCAA sanctions and/or a coach molesting young boys in the shower in the locker room, has happened to the Razorback football program, generously ranked as high as 8th in the country pre-season. 

And for this, I place the lions share of the blame, if not the entire fetid mess, at the feet of Bobby Petrino.  If Petrino had kept little Bobby in his pants and his girlfriend off the payroll, he would still be the Head Coach.  The aforementioned scholars and journalists who are clamoring for Bobby's return and/or excoriating Athletic Director Jeff Long for having terminated him forget that Petrino exposed the University of Arkansas to massive liability when he put Jessica Dorrell ahead of other more experienced if not more qualified people when he hired her.  That was the reason Bobby Petrino was fired.  And he had it comin'.

And on paper, the decision to bring John L. back as interim coach made sense.  The proven track record as a Head Coach.  His familiarity with the program and the system.  The fact that he was well liked by the players and the community.  It made sense.  Except for one thing.

Both Long and John L have both stated that Smith disclosed his financial condition prior to his being hired.  Long has said that John L. got caught up in some bad real estate investments.  He was good with it.  After all John L is not the only one in that boat.  As I told the girls at St. Mary's, stuff happens.  Good people file bankruptcies.

But boy, football feeds the bulldog at most Division I schools.  It pays all the bills.  Long was on notice that John L had financial problems.  Why not do a Dun and Bradstreet before turning over the keys to a guy who is completely insolvent?  Carrying that much debt has to weigh on a person.  Having your financial misdeeds examined from ESPN to Deadspin has to be the height of humiliation.  At the minimum the bankruptcy filing will require John L to visit with his lawyer, attend a first meeting of creditors and who knows what else?  If he's lucky, all will go smoothly and he will get his Discharge in a month or so and he can move on.  But Lady Luck has not been kind to the Razorback program since last February or so.  Shouldn't that have been checked out?  How many more distractions do they need up there?

You sure couldn't have predicted such chaos after the Sugar Bowl last year.  I just wish that I had those Schedules with me when I was visiting the Econ girls at the Mount last week.

Talk about a teachable moment.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

"You got a minute?" James asked. 

"Sure," I said as I pulled a chair over beside me. "Sit down.  What's going on?"

He sat.  The boy looked like Hell's gate.  He looked up at the ceiling.  He then leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.  I did so likewise.  I looked up into his face.

"Talk to me," I said.

"A process server came to my house last night.  I got served at work (he whispered the latter) last week.  Can you tell me the difference between Chapter 13 and Chapter 7? I've got an appointment with a lawyer this afternoon but I want to get an idea from you first.  I'm kinda nervous."

"Of course I can.  You buying or renting?"

"Renting.  All we own are our cars."

Driving and wearing their assets as the saying goes.

" My wife, she had a tough pregnancy and the baby was premature.  We didn't have insurance.  The one that served me last night was the anesthesiologist."

" Does your wife work?"

" No.  She's gone back to get her Masters.  That means we have to pay for day care on top of every thing else."


I asked him how much they owed.  I have heard worse in my day.  No credit card debt to speak of. Virtually all the unsecured debt was high two figures in medical bills.  But still this was more than a single income family could pay. 

He put his head in his hands.

"James," I said. "It sounds like you need to be in a 7.  That's a straight throw in the towel liquidation."

"What will happen?"

"The Automatic Stay goes out.  The lawsuits stop.  The phone quits ringing."

"We don't answer the phone anymore anyway," he said with a rueful smile.

" Well, once you file you can start.  Anyway, you will set out your debts in what's called the schedules and then you will get a discharge of your debts about a month later.  That means that the debts are no longer enforceable against you personally."

"I hate this," he said. "I've always paid my bills."

"You can't pay this," I said. "Medical bills and divorce are the typical reasons that people have to file.  It's not like you ran up a bunch of credit cards going out to eat and buying stuff.  You need to give yourself some peace.  Who are you seeing this afternoon?"

He told me.  Guy named Larry.

"Larry is a good lawyer and a good guy.  We go back a long way. If I were going to file I would go to Larry."

James relaxed for the first time during the conversation.  He smiled.

"Really?" he said. "That makes me feel better."

"Really.  Now you listen to me.  You need to find you some health insurance.  Like, tomorrow."

"I can't afford it."

I'm generally pretty poker faced.  But I suppose my demeanor changed as James' face grew noticeably ashen. 

"I can't believe this shit," I stage whispered. " You can't afford it? Your lack of health insurance is what put you in bankruptcy.  You are about to get a discharge of your debts and a fresh start only to keep playing with fire?  That's just stupid."

"You're right."

"You're goddamn skippy I'm right," I said.  "Here's the deal.  Before you can get your discharge you and your wife will have to pass an online personal finance course.  I want you to get some quotes on a premium and factor that into the budget they will make you put together.  Put it right up there with the rent as a monthly expense.  Then have it taken out of your check as if it never existed in the first place.  I don't want you to get in this fix again. Because you can't file another bankruptcy for 7 years."

"OK," he said. "I will."

"You better is all I'm saying."

He sat for a minute.  Finally he spoke.

"I can't believe this," he said. "I'm not a deadbeat."

"I know you're not," I replied. "And you are not the only one in your boat.  It is a national crisis. You can't pay this.  You need to get on with your life."

He thanked me for my time and left for his appointment with his lawyer.

When I practiced law I used to look at the Schedules filed by Debtors in the millions of bankruptcies that I handled.  Sure, you had your deadbeats.  Your credit card millionaires.  But a high number of them were caused by medical bills.  And even some of the credit card debtors were not as imprudent as it looked at first blush.

Let's say you live somewhere out in the sticks and you have an infant that needs open heart surgery.  The doctor tells you that the baby will be in the hospital for 6 weeks.  Well, you can't leave the baby here in Little Rock.  And if you don't know anybody here you have to stay in a hotel.  And you use a credit card.  Because you don't have enough money to stay in a hotel and you can't leave the baby.  Poor folks have poor ways as the saying goes.  Caring for a critically ill baby is not an extravagance.  But some folks are working without a net. 

It is a scene played out every single day across the country.  Medical emergency with no insurance creates a crushing debt load.  The completely leveraged patient has to file bankruptcy to keep the providers from garnisheeing his pay check but he ruins his credit score in the process.  He gets the Discharge which means the providers write off the bills as uncollectable debt.  And hospitals across the country hemorrhage red ink.

So somebody tell me again why universal health coverage is such a bad idea.  Somebody remind me why this is the way to run the railroad. 

I ran into James yesterday.  Larry pretty much agreed with my take on it.  James and his wife will start gathering the information so that the lawyer can't get something filed here in a week or so.  He's not thrilled by all of this but at least he can see a way out. 

But really, somebody tell me why everybody having health insurance is such a bad idea. 

Thursday, August 09, 2012

See Ya Later!

Getting on a plane and blowing town tomorrow.  Way overdue.  Will be jammed up for the foreseeable future with family bidness, my catchup work with a highly alliterative consumer protection organization and my initial foray into the banking world. 

See you in September!

It's all good.  Really good. 

Talk amongst yourself until I get back. 

Sunday, August 05, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I got a message from a friend the other day.  She has a kid over at the eStem charter school downtown.  She told me that they had an assembly over there last year where the kids were  addressed by a woman identified as "Alexis from Texas."  She was dressed in a bridal gown for some reason and, as I understand it, she held herself out as a 40 year old virgin while she addressed the assembly on the virtues of abstinence. 

My friend asked me if this sort of presentation was "taboo."  I guess by taboo she meant an unconstitutional injection of religion into a public school.

The first thing I did was google the words "alexis texas."  What popped up were many sites devoted to the body of work (pardon the expression) of a porn actress named "Alexis Texas."  Acting strictly in the interests of journalism as I was and also in order to provide my friend with accurate information I took in some of Alexis' art.  For about 2 hours.

Just kidding.

Anyway, if indeed Alexis Texas is the altar ego of  Alexis from Texas then I fear that a massive fraud was perpetrated on the Little Rock Public Schools.  I mean massive, as a cursory review of her work would lead the casual reviewer to the inescapable conclusion that Alexis Texas is as much a virgin as I am a harpsichordist.  Unless, of course, she would utilize the technical defense that in some cultures certain acts, acts that were extravagantly displayed in the videos, are not considered violative of the virginal state.  And I will leave it at that.

However, as much as it would amuse me to be proven wrong on this, I think the safer bet is that Alexis from Texas does not supplement her lecture fees by acting in porn films.  Which leads us to my friend's tamer question of whether such a lecture is "taboo." 

Well, I wasn't there and I don't know what was presented.  But I don't think an abstinence lecture necessarily violates the 1st Amendment despite the fact that this is a big deal for evangelical types who are not above sneaking their brand of Christianity into a public schoolhouse whenever the opportunity presents itself.   According to them. sex education is pornography.  Which is bullshit.  Alexis Texas , who may or may not be Alexis from Texas, is pornography.  Sex education is, well, education. While I don't disagree that young kids don't need to be fooling around, such a lecture is not sex education.  And the manner in which this particular talk was presented seems pretty stupid to me.

A grown woman lecturing in a bridal gown is pretty campy.  Her claim to be a virgin is pretty much neither provable or disprovable, at least from the perspective of a gentleman who tends to keep knowledge of such matters to himself.  And what kinda signal does this get up send anyway?  I mean, everybody knows that the average bride is gonna get her some as soon as the gown hits the hotel room floor.  And doesn't a person need some sort of baseline knowledge of such matters married or otherwise? 

So while I don't think, from what little I know about the show that day at eStem, that the presentation was "taboo" or "illegal."  But it did sound more than a little silly.  And it didn't sound like much useful useful info got put out during the assembly.  Abstinence only lectures are ineffective.  Kids are kids.  They will experiment.  They will play with fire.  They need to know facts.  This kind of campy nonsense is no substitute for that.  Which kinda irks me as a taxpayer.

But, really, if anybody can prove that Alexis Texas and her allegedly abstinent quasi-namesake are the same person please drop me a line.  LRSD needs to get its money back. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Last Friday I had the privilege of judging a debate at the local university.  My friend Pam, who invited me, is part of the English as Second Language (ESL) Department over there and the debaters were all foreign kids, mostly African and Middle Eastern to my eye and ear.  I suppose the idea of having them debate is to make them use their new language skills to argue their respective points before an audience while under time pressure.  Good idea.  This is hard enough to do when English is your first language.

The format was the British debating style.  In the one I judged, one team (or House) had the position that censorship of the media was crucial to society and national security.  The other House argued that censorship was a violation of the 1st Amendment and always impermissible.  And off they went. 

As was to be expected, some of the debaters were better than others.  But both Houses were well prepared and earnestly went about their work.  As the debate went on it became pretty clear that neither side had a real good grasp on what the 1st Amendment really is or does.  For instance, one of the 1st Amendment debaters pointed out that both journalist Daniel Pearl and Martin Luther King died in places where governments were trying to suppress their views. 

Now this was a false equivalence of the highest order and I was disappointed that nobody on (in?) the other House didn't knock it out of the park.  But you also got the impression upon occasion as they went at it that both Houses thought that the 1st Amendment governs speech between individuals.  Which it does not.

As I told the group in my remarks afterwards, the 1st Amendment only concerns itself with action by the government.  As I told them, "If I am typing a letter to the editor about why I hate the Governor of Arkansas, and Pam (she was handy) kicks my door in and grabs my laptop, she is being mean and maybe I need to quit being friends with her.  But she's not violating my rights.  If the cops do it, they are violating my rights under the 1st Amendment.  Because under the 1st Amendment I have the right to send a letter to the editor expressing my opinion, whatever it may be, about the Governor of Arkansas.  And nobody in the government can stop me."

But the young debaters shouldn't feel badly on this score.  Lots of folks get this wrong.  Like some people who support the position of Chick Fil-A's CEO against gay marriage. As Gentle Reader may know, folks in the LBGT community (look it up as you really should know what this means by now) have organized a boycott of Chick Fil-A because of its stance on the issue. This has resonated with many people.   Indeed, the mayors of the cities of Boston and Chicago have told CFA to take its business elsewhere.

And some folks on the Christian right have come to Chick Fil-A's defense in response to the boycott.  Indeed, on August 1st our own Mike Huckabee and Billy Graham will go get some chicken during "Support Chick Fil-A Day."  Or something.  Which is fine.

What isn't fine, are some of the comments I have seen that equate the boycott of the business with "intolerance" or with a violation of the CEO's rights under the 1st Amendment.

Which is, of course, complete and utter nonsense.

As I have said before, I am free to spend my money whenever and wherever I choose.  For whatever reason I choose to do it.  The fact that I tend not to patronize businesses whose stated corporate values I do not share is not intolerance on my part.  It's how I choose to spend my money.  If I go into the local Chick Fil-A with an assault rifle and light the place up, that's an act of intolerance.  If I stand across the street with a bullhorn and hurl vile epithets at its customers, that's an act of intolerance.  Where I choose to spend my money is my business and my business alone.  And besides, it's pretty damn hard to commit an act of intolerance if nobody knows about it.  At least it's not a very effective one.

Secondly, the notion that Chick Fil-A is some kind of victim here is laughable.  If they are they did it to themselves.  When companies take polarizing stances, there is always some kind of response from consumers and interest groups.  At least in the short haul.  They didn't see this coming?  If they didn't they are idiots.

Finally, as demonstrated above, the boycott violates nobodies constitutional rights.  Nobody in the government has forced the CEO to retract his remarks.  He is still free to stick to his guns.  Folks are free to continue to get their yardbird at Chick Fil-A 7 days a week if they like.  Wait.  Make that 6.  They are closed on Sundays. 

And I am free to spend my money as I see fit.  Because it's my money And if I choose not to patronize a certain business it's not because I am intolerant.  It's my money.  It's my business. 

It's really not much more complicated or sinister than that.  Really it's not.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Today's Wally About the Absence of Bobby Petrino from the SEC Media Day

Upon keeping things in perspective: "His crime last spring doesn't compare to Joe Paterno's or even Jim Tressel's" 

Upon making stuff up I," Petrino is in the process of picking up the pieces of his life and putting them back together."

Upon "Hey! Thanks for sharing" : "Reportedly( Yes.  "Reportedly")  he and his wife are together, living in an apartment on a golf course in Rogers,  They apparently (Yes. "Apparently.) are seen at Mass every Sunday." 

Upon making stuff up II while musing on the limits of humility: " Probably what Petrino needed even more than a dose of humbleness (Yes.  "Humbleness")  was good old fashioned family time. "

Upon making stuff up III:  " Most likely, Petrino will have to take a step back, maybe go out West, back to his roots." 

The sports zeitgeist has suggested that Bobby Petrino may be back at Arkansas after a sufficient display of humbleness.  And maybe Wally has his finger in the wind after completely blowing this story.  I don't know.  I am just speculating.  Which is different from making stuff up. 

In closing, let's keep things in perspective. 

Petrino's "crime last spring doesn't compare to Joe Paterno's or even Jim Tressel's."

Or even Jim Tressel's. 

There you have it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Same As The Old Boss

"If you find yourself in a situation where the athletic culture is taking precedence over the academic culture than a variety of bad things can occur." 
                                                                              NCAA President Mark Emmert

OK.  Penn State had it comin'.  I think most folks can agree to that.  At least most folks not in State College, Pennsylvania where there are still those trapped in the mystical tug of Nittany Lion football.  But as we gaze over the smoking rubble that is Penn State football in the wake of the bomb that the NCAA dropped on it yesterday, it is only fitting that we consider the larger implications of the sanctions for Division I athletics. 

And the immediate conclusion is "not much."

The NCAA's Executive Committee clearly intended these sanctions to be a shot across the bow.  As Oregon State's Ed Ray said at yesterday's press conference concerning the Penn State sanctions, " The message is the presidents and the chancellors are in charge."


Don't look now gentlemen, but down heah in the SEC football is driving the culture everywhere but Vanderbilt and Kentucky.  Has been for years.  And the Commodores, after an unexpected brush with competence last season, are getting itchy.  And things aren't that much different on some campuses in the Big 10, Big 12 and PAC whatever the hell it is now.

Frank Zappa once said something along the lines of "World War III will never start in Los Angeles.  There's too much real estate involved." 

Same here with DI football.  If they think what they did to Penn State is going to change the culture of big time football, they're on crack.  There's too much real estate involved.  The dreaded "lack of institutional control" is going on at more "member institutions" than they even know or want to know.  Now, to be sure such lack of institutional control is not covering up horrific criminal behavior as was the case at Penn State.  Penn State was the problem from hell.  And still there are those in State College who disbelieve the Freeh report, who still defend Joe Paterno. 

The tail has wagged the dog far too long at some places.  And now they are going to a playoff system.  Why?  Money.  Pure and simple. 

The presidents and chancellors are in charge?  Yeah right.

I can think of one probable effect of this whole stinking mess. 

Betcha nobody erects another statue to honor a living football coach anytime soon.  Depending on the scale of the piece, it can be a bitch to find a place to store the damn thing if you have to tear it down. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Caroline McCormick and I didn't get off to the greatest start in the world.  I had gone to visit Don and Karin at the old house in Birmingham.  I slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room.  I had just awakened when I heard the sound of tiny feet coming down the staircase.  Little Caroline saw me as I sat up in the bed. 

She ran away screaming. 

We got past it. 

Caroline and her husband Reese Ornellas were in town Friday and Saturday.  They left San Francisco en route to our Nation's Capitol where Caroline will start medical school at Georgetown in a couple of weeks.  Reese, whom I met for the first time is an earnest sort who will teach literacy to 3rd graders at a charter school there.  He clearly dotes on Caroline.  I approve. 

Caroline texted me last week and told me that they were coming through town and said they wanted to see me.  She calls me Arthur Paul.  Mr. Erxleben used to address me thusly as well as some of the guys at Wright, Lindsey and Jennings.  Caroline's old man called me and said that they had been camping their way across the country from San Francisco and could they crash over here.  Absolutely. 

I guess I hadn't seen Caroline in 10 years.  Neither one of us could really remember.  But as you can see, she's all grown up now, boy.

I remember her parent's wedding in Birmingham.  I drove the Impala that I had bought for 300 bucks from Uncle Howard  to Jackson to pick up Hugh.  We stopped for lunch at a pizza joint in Meridian.  I bought the Pizza and Hugh popped for the pitcher of beer.  Neither one of us had a net worth of more than 50 bucks back in those days.

That was a long time ago.  Hugh's dead.  I'm semi-retired. 

And Caroline is going to med school. 

Caroline wanted to see Hillcrest because Don had said how much he liked it here.  We would have walked but it was 108.  People from San Francisco aren't wired for 108.  Hell, I'm not sure that I am.  Anyway, we went down Kavanaugh, through Stift Station on Downtown.  We drove past the Federal Building.  Caroline asked me to point out my window to her.  Nobody has ever asked me to do that before.

We went to the Clinton Library, through the River Market, and into Argenta.  Little Rock seemed "cool" to them.  I told Caroline that when her Dad first visited me around 1986 or so there wasn't a damn thing to do in this town.  Other than to go out and get into trouble.  Which we did.  You can still get into trouble around here.  But it is no longer your best option.  Unless you are a knucklehead.

I showed them the Miracle League field.  They were impressed by the swing for the wheelchair kids and the special slide with rollers.  Never seen anything like that.  And that was the grand tour.

Caroline is a vegan. So I scouted ahead for sustenance before they got here. Turns out that the Brazilian place down the road has a good selection of vegan entrees as well as sensible fare for people like Reese and myself.  She was pleasantly surprised and grateful that she didn't have to "mix and match" as she put it.  My friend Carrey from Catholic High came over and introduced herself.  Buzz, one of my little lawyer friends, did likewise. 

"That's the guy you were telling us about?" Caroline asked. "The guy down the street from you who practices law out of his house?"

"That's him."



I found vegan cupcakes of all damn things on my scouting trip earlier in the week.  They make the icing out of tofu.  Son of a bitch.  I love the girl but eating this kinda crap just ain't right.  Be that as it may, off to Rosalia's bakery we went for breakfast on Saturday. 

"Is this your daughter?" the girl behind the counter asked.

"Might as well be," I replied. 

They met my friend Susie who introduced them to the dog she found at a truck stop and named "Good Buddy."  She told Caroline his birthday is "10-4." At the Farmer's Market they met my Baptist preacher golfing buddy Randy, associate minister Carolyn and the Mayor of Little Rock. 

"Guys, meet the Mayor of Little Rock," I said for the first time in my life. It sounded funny coming out of my mouth.  I guess I never thought that a guy like me would be personally acquainted with the mayor of any place bigger than Bixby, Oklahoma. 

All of the folks at the Farmers Market spoke highly of me.  Or as honestly of me as they could in the shadow of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church. 

I was surprised to feel something like sadness as Reese packed up the Prius as they prepared to get back on the road.  I'm not around young people much anymore and I enjoyed their energy and perspective.  I enjoyed paying for everything.  I enjoyed seeing my buddy Don in his daughter's face.  I enjoyed talking about baseball with Reese.  I enjoyed showing them around and introducing them to my friends.  It was weird.  I didn't want them to go.

"You have water?"

"Thanks, but we have plenty of bottled water in the car," Reese said.  We shook hands. 

Caroline hugged me.

"Now you call me if y'all run into a jam out there.  I mean it."

"We will," she said. 

"Text me when you get to your mom's."

"I will. I promise."

"I love you, Honey"

"I love you too," she said as I kissed her scalp.

"You take of yourself, Arthur Paul."

"I will.  I promise."

They hung a right on Van Buren and soon California tags were receding South in search of the interstate. 

I'll take care of myself, Honey.  I will. I promise. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I ran into my friend Patty at the Farmer's Market in front of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church this morning.  Patty teaches Gifted and Talented in a local Junior High.  Hadn't seen her in awhile.  She is from Philadelphia where her 94 year old Mom still lives.  94.  God bless her.

Naturally, the Penn State story had been much on her mind, especially since she thought for awhile that she had grown up with Tim Curley, the Athletic Director that got canned and indicted.  Wrong Tim Curley.  She actually follows this blog and has followed the posts about the horrorshow in the place formerly known as Happy Valley.  She was particularly intrigued by my suggestion that Penn State might have taken a different path if there had been more women in authority there.  We stood underneath the entrance of the old church and talked while we watched it rain.

"I think you may be on to something there," she said. "Men just don't get it.  Or, rather some men don't."

"What's there not to get?" I said.  " I mean, even if there's no sexual assault going on, there's something just really squirrelly about a grown man being in a shower with a little boy after hours. Hell, I will not touch a child outside of the presence of an adult.  He was in a shower with a kid."

" I know.  Any woman would have been horrified by this news and heads would have rolled.  But here's another take on it."


"You know, I'll bet none of these guys ever taught school."

"Not following."

" When you're a schoolteacher you are trained not to touch a kid, not to be behind closed doors with a kid.  Stuff like that.  Now I can't help giving hugs even though I'm not supposed to do it but that's just me.  But when you teach at the secondary level you have to know the rules and you develop a radar about this stuff that obviously nobody had at Penn State."

She looked out at the rain for a moment.

"Can you imagine what those poor boys..." she said.

"No," I said cutting her off. "No frame of reference for it.  Biggest lie in the world is contained in the phrase 'I know how you feel' unless you really do."

"Ya know," she said. " I had one of my former students come see me last Spring.  She had just graduated from Fayetteville and moved back to Little Rock."


"She's a writer.  She wanted to show me a story that she had written.  It was about a girl who was a victim of date rape."

"I hope it wasn't autobiographical."

"I'm afraid it was.  She told me about how the experience caused her to plunge into a severe depression.  She couldn't sleep.  She almost had to drop out of school."

"That's just awful."

" Yeah, she couldn't even bring herself to tell her mother about it until fairly recently.  And it happened over 2 years ago."

"Wow.  Poor kid."

"Think of those poor boys.  What must have been going through their minds at the time? This has got to still impact their lives.  It has to."

"I can't imagine."

"Neither can I."

"And here's something else," I said. "Where the hell was Mrs. Sandusky all this time?  What would your response be if I told you that I'm going to make our basement a playroom and invite kids from the foundation..."

"Most of which were already troubled," she said.

"For sleepovers and stuff.  You would be good with that, right?"

"Of course not!  And about that time I would be thinking I was married to a lunatic.  Although it sounds like she had a screw loose as well. And here's another thing.  Guys like Sandusky makes it harder for people like us who like working with kids."

"One of the questions on cross was 'How's your hearing Mrs. Sandusky?'"

She let that sink in.

"This is making me ill.  I need to buy some stuff and get back home. Need to quit thinking about this stuff.  Which is gonna be hard to do back when I go home to see Mom Monday morning."

Patty's mom is still pretty sharp. Still lives in the home.  Still pretty self sufficient.  She writes a poem every Christmas.  It is a cherished tradition for their family.  This year's poem came early to Patty's mom this year.  Woke her up at 2 in the morning the other night.

94.  God bless her.

My advise to Patty?  Don't look at a sports page while you're in Philly.  Don't listen to sports radio.  

Give yourself over instead to your Mom and this year's Christmas poem.

Give yourself over to love.  And to being safe.  Because safety is an illusion in some places. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Worst Thing Ever

"It is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequence of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university-Spanier, Schulz, Paterno and Curley-repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from authorities, the university's board of trustees, the Penn State community and the community at large."

                           Hon. Louis Freeh in the press conference about his report on the Penn State scandal

Bad publicity.  They failed to turn over a child molester because they feared bad pub.  All those little boys, most of them from troubled backgrounds to begin with, were violated because those who knew failed to turn Jerry Sandusky over to law enforcement before the turn of the century.   

Last night I ran into one of my Miracle League kids and her Dad at the store.  K gave me a big hug around my waist.  K has a communication disorder.  She would make the perfect victim as would many of those kids.  And I am ever mindful of the almost sacred trust that is reposed in me by the parents, the League and the system every Saturday that I go out to Miracle League field.

So, here is the the thing that I cannot reconcile, that I cannot wrap my mind around. 

Why, for Christ's sake, did nobody report seeing Jerry Sandusky after hours in the shower with a child?  On what planet in the known universe is this behavior not excruciatingly suspicious? 

They were afraid of bad publicity.  All those poor little terrified boys. 

I'm going to go out on a limb here.  But it's my limb.  It is my guess that the child abuse scandals at both Penn State and in the Roman Catholic Church would have been less likely if there had been women in positions of power in both institutions.  If for no other reason than women have the babies around here.  I don't know of any woman in my life that would not have thrown herself between Sandusky and that little boy in the shower.  And if a woman had been in charge at Penn State when the news of his squirrelly behavior hit her desk, my best guess is that the sounds of sirens would have followed shortly thereafter.

Bad publicity.  All those poor little boys.

Joe Paterno wrote a letter that was not published until recently.  He said that the scandal is not properly understood as a "football scandal."  To which I say, "Stay dead, Joe."

Here is a simple way to look at it.  If the coach is running the Athletic Department and/or the school it is what the NCAA refers to as a "lack of institutional control."  We do not know but we may strongly infer that the Athletic Director decided not to turn Sandusky over @ 2003 or so after speaking to Joe Paterno.  And they failed to follow the law and conspired to keep these criminal acts quiet for fear of bad publicity which we may also infer would work a disadvantage in recruiting. 

"You sure you want to go play there Son? Kids get fucked in the shower there.  We don't allow that kinda shit here at Northwestern."

Yeah. I can totally see that.

But you know what?  It doesn't matter. 

The men mention in Judge Freeh's report, men at the highest level of authority at Penn State, suborned criminal acts despicably committed upon innocent children to save the program.  No, it's not Dave Bliss paying players at Baylor.  It's not Jim Tressel looking the other way at Ohio State's players were selling memorabilia.  It's not Miami and Oklahoma being, well, Miami and Oklahoma.  It is not the usual violations that the NCAA selectively enforces. 

This one is off the charts.  It is the worst thing ever in the long and occasionally tawdry history of Division I football.  It is beyond the patina of hypocrisy that allows those who know better to suspend disbelief on Saturday in order to pretend that most of these guys are really student-athletes. 

It is the Worst. Thing. Ever.  And it was allowed to happen due to a lack of institutional control.  Seems pretty simple to my admittedly simple mind.

All of those poor little boys.  Sacrificed because powerful men thought bad PR was even worse than the rape of a child.  Penn State has forfeited the right to participate in football for the foreseeable future.

And if the NCAA, or the Big Ten, or both, don't step in, then we really will know what's more important.

Won't we?