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.