Sunday, April 27, 2014

Waiting for Lefty

That crazy arthritis thing in my hand has flared back up.  So it's back to the doctor tomorrow.

I'm going to avoid typing as much as possible until this subsides.

Talk among yourselves.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

I used to have to deal with guys like Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who you may recall is being horribly miscast in the nutbar media as a patriot and much put upon small time rancher who is standing up for State's Rights as the feds try to round up cattle that he has been grazing on Federal land.  

Back in my day, the government protester types were the Militia and the Posse Comitatus and they existed pretty much pre-Internet.  And thank God. Because the lack of an instantaneous world wide forum kept the dispute between the government and the loons I had to deal with confined locally and on paper.

Actually, while some of the militia types I dealt with were nuts, many of them were desperate and under the sway of criminals who convinced them for a fee that they could repay debt with "10th Amendment Letters of Credit", biblical defenses to foreclosure and other nonsense.  It was a pretty crazy time.

But none of my "patriot" types had armed sympathizers show up at any government foreclosure sale.  Or if any of them were packing they had the good sense not to throw down at the courthouse steps. Nobody ever escalated the situation with me as has Clive Bundy.

Here's the narrative that I have seen rolled out on Facebook and in certain media outlets who either flunked out of News School or decided there was more money to be made in forgetting anything they ever learned there. 

According to that zeitgeist, Bundy is an embattled rancher who is fighting to preserve his freedoms and to the Feds and their "jack booted thugs" (always "jack booted thugs")from seizing his cattle that are grazing on lands set aside for conservation.  Bundy claims a right to be out there because his family supposedly "homesteaded" the area in the late 1800s.  Further, he claims to not recognize the Federal government and he states that only Nevada law applies to his case.

Anyway, the Feds began rounding up the cattle.  Bundy called in his supporters, many of the armed, to "defend his rights." Cameras rolled.  Sound bytes were gleaned.  Uncle sensibly backed off, not wanting to get into a shoot out with an elderly man over cattle.

The arc of the narrative is that this brave patriot, in standing up to a capricious government, is standing up for all of our rights.  Rights that have been usurped by a rapacious and uncaring Federal government.

Of course, most of this is not true.  The truth of the matter is that Uncle didn't just decide one day to go out and make an example of Clive Bundy.  Bundy has been in litigation with the Department of Justice over these issues since 1996.  

The United States government own practically 70% of the land in Nevada. It issues permits to allow grazing and other activities on the land that it owns. In the early 1990s the government dedicated hundreds of thousands of acres to be set aside for conservation.  They approached affected ranchers and attempted to buy back the grazing rights.  Bundy refused to sell.  The Bureau of Land Management revoked his permit.  In 1998, a Federal Judge issued a permanent injunction against Bundy and ordered the cattle off the land.  He appealed.  He lost.  Regardless, he refused to remove the cattle.  He racks up fines that he refuses to pay.

In 2012, the BLM goes back to Court seeking another injunction. In August 2013, the Court orders Bundy to remove within 45 days.  In October of that year he is ordered not interfere with any attempt to seize the cattle.  During the 1st of April all of his children and grandchildren join him in the family compound to defend against the planned seizure of the cattle.  About 30 armed sympathizers show up as well.  As stated earlier on, the Feds backed off.  For now.

Clive Bundy is no patriot.  He is a deadbeat and scofflaw who has grazed cattle for free on lands where we well knew that he was not allowed to.  In doing so he has been systematically and continuously ripping off the taxpayers, that would be you and me, while placing folks in physical danger who are guilty of no more then doing their jobs.  Jobs they had every authority to carry out by more than one court order.

And his claim that the laws of Nevada trump the laws of the United States? Complete bullshit.  The Nevada Constitution expressly recognizes the supremacy of the United States Constitution.  He doesn't have a leg to stand on legally.  But you wouldn't know that if you listen to the Tea Party types that are trying to make Cliven Bundy the second coming of Thomas Paine.

I wish I didn't have to pay income and real estate taxes.  But I do.  I wish I didn't have to pay car insurance. But I do.  And if I failed to do those things I don't think that I would hold myself out as some kinda patriot while sounding the completely false alarm that my rights were being infringed upon.

What a world.  Conservatives used to believe in rule of law.  Most still do. At least the ones I know still do.  And all of us can be sympathetic to a man acting on what he perceives to be principle, even if they be wrong-headed.

But forget what you hear on Fox or on Facebook.  Cliven Bundy is not a man of principle.  He is a deadbeat draped in the flag.

But boy am I glad that Bill Wade and the rest of the Posse back there in Greene County didn't have cable TV or Internet access back when I had to fool with them.  And I'm glad that I don't work for the BLM in Arizona right now. 

Some civil service jobs just ain't worth it.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Injured List

No MSF today.  I'm getting over one of my periodic arthritis flareups in my right hand.  So, I'm giving the keyboard a rest.

Talk among yourselves.



Sunday, April 06, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

Last Friday, I did something I haven't done since I was a young Legal Services lawyer in Forrest City.  

I walked to work.   It felt like one of the few "full circle" experiences I have had thus far in my life.

It has been an interesting trip since I walked out of the Federal Building in 2011.  As folks tried to tell me going into it, "retirement" would be nothing like I thought it would be.  And they were right.  Don't get me wrong.  Everything is way cool.  It's just not like I thought it would be.  

I thought I would be back working full time in 6 months.  That didn't happen.  But then again, it's not like I tried real hard.  Hell, I didn't try at all.  

I didn't think I could stand working from home.  It's actually pretty great.  I didn't think I would do work for a bank.  But I am.

And I really, really didn't think I would find myself standing in front of a room full of high school girls at Mount Saint Mary's Academy.  But there I was, God help us all, proctoring chemistry tests and presiding over study hall.  

This all came about long about January when I decided I needed to be busier than I was at that time.  And because I often think I might be good at teaching I figured that substitute teaching would give me a taste of it to see if I liked it.  Both Saint Mary's and Holy Souls are within walking distance.  Catholic High is a mile away.  So I got VIRTUS certified (sexual abuse training), let everybody know of my availability and that was that.

I confess that I was pretty nervous as I walked down 'I" Street along with all the kids.  And I'm not the sort to get that way.  But I had never been in charge of a bunch of girls before. My friend Ann was out in the yard as I walked past. She called out to me.  She took notice of my jacket and tie.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.  It was a fair question.

"I'm subbing at the Mount today," I replied.

She hugged me. 

"You'll be great," she whispered. "the girls will love you." 

"Yeah well....we'll see," I muttered as I turned and manfully pushed myself into the wave of backpacks and uniforms.

I reported for duty.  They gave me my materials and a bottle of water.  Oh, by the way, we are having a tornado drill first thing. 

Perfect.  I promised myself that I would not let this be a metaphor for the day.

They assigned a kid to lead me to the room.  Good idea. I walked in.  There they were.  You're a real boy now Pinocchio.

I decided to lead with the truth.  It was all I had. 

The opening speech all day went something like this.

"Good Morning, ladies.  Obviously, I am not Dr. Hendrickson. My name is Paul Bowen.  I will be giving you the test this morning.  While I will be happy to answer any questions that you might have, you are pretty much on your own.  I am a lawyer.  I don't know the first thing about chemistry. Good luck."

All the classes were equally amused by my confession that I was a lawyer. Under other circumstances I might have explored this.  But there was work to do.  

I passed out the tests and sat down in the teacher's chair with my iPad.  It occurred to me that it had been 34 years since I sat in a classroom where folks were taking a test.  That was when I was at Tulane.  That was in a previous life.  And here I was now at Mount Saint Mary's.  Here I was now watching girls take a chemistry test.  Another "full circle" experience.  Two in one day.  Not bad.  

While my room was quiet, there were sounds of life elsewhere all throughout the building.  I spend a lot of time down the road at Catholic High.  It gets pretty noisy over there.  But there are also stretches of silence.  There was no time during the day last Friday where I wasn't cognizant of voices.  Always voices somewhere.

I thought to myself,"This is pretty cool.  I can do this."

Besides, hanging around with these kids sure beats practicing law.

About an hour into it, the iPad buzzed.  It was an email from downstairs. 

"Can you come back Tuesday morning at 8?"

"Yes I can."

"Great! "

Yeah it really kinda is.  

As I walked home I sent Ann a text.  I told her that I really enjoyed my day.

"You were raised to do this," she wrote back. " You were raised to be a teacher."

It occurred to me, off the top of my head, that this was the nicest thing anybody had said to me in a long time. A very long time. 

"Besides, Steve and I look forward to a lot of great stories out of this adventure."

Me too, actually.  

I used to walk to work when I was a young lawyer in the Delta. I hope it's a pretty day next Tuesday.  

It will feel good to walk to work for another day up on the hill.  Maybe I will decide that teaching is not for me.  Maybe I will go back to the dark side and practice law again while I still halfway remember how to do it.  

But for now, the "full circle" aspect of this is pretty amazing to me.  And I am grateful for the experience.  And, like my friend Ann, I look forward to the stories that are sure to come.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

VOX POPULI: The Consultant

"So," I said to the man. "What's new with you?"

" I guess you could say that I am a consultant," he said. "That's why I'm here tonight."

"That's why you're at (insert any mall thing that you might care to)?, I asked. "Not following."

"Came over to use the Internet access at Starbucks."


Bless his heart.