Sunday, November 30, 2014

Post Football Lethargy

No MSF today.  Too busy with friends, fambly and college football.  Will return soon.

Talk among yourselves in the meantime.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

         I first came into the orbit of William H. Bowen, who died a week or so ago,  when I was in my early thirties.  I had written something for the old Arkansas Gazette that had caught his eye.  Actually, my last name caught his eye.  Turns out he had a lifelong habit of trying to get to know anybody named Bowen that he ran across to see if there was some sort of relation. 

          In our case there was not, but that didn’t keep him from graciously inviting me to join him nonetheless for my first lunch at the Little Rock Club.  I don’t remember much about the lunch except that I enjoyed the view from atop what was then the Commercial National Bank building (as I recall) while wondering why on Earth Bill Bowen was wasting his time with the likes of a nobody such as me.

          We kept in touch over the years mostly through mutual friends and acquaintances.  We would see each other when out to dinner and the like.  And he called me out of the blue shortly after Uncle Sam and I split the sheets to make sure I “didn’t do something stupid” as he put it before he could get to me. 

          But my favorite memory of Mr. Bowen was back when he was running Bill Clinton’s office while the latter was flitting around all over the country running for President.  Our family has held our reunions at Eden Isle for as long as I can remember.  It was during one of those occasions that I ran into him in the club house at Red Apple Golf Course.  After we had made small talk and caught up with each other he asked me what I was doing in Heber.  I told him that I was up there for the family reunion.

          “Now, you lost your daddy when you were young,” he said.  “Did I remember that right?”

          He did.  The fact that he remembered it at all was amazing to me.

“Is your mother still living?”

          “Yes sir,” I said. “She’s in one of those condos over there.”

          “Take me to her.  I want to meet her.”


          “Of course I want to meet your mother.  Lead the way.”

          At that point in time he was merely the 3rd most important guy in the damn State behind Frank Broyles and Bill Clinton.  What was I going to say?  I had a tee time?

          He put his arm around my shoulder as we walked to the condo where Mother and the rest of the family was staying.  Mother was sitting in a rocking chair when we entered. 

          “Mother, I want you to meet Mr. William Bowen,” I said. 

          “Don’t get up ma’am,” he said as he extended his hand to her.

          “He’s the Chief of Staff for the Governor of Arkansas,” I said by way of introduction for the first and last time in my life.

          By this time, Mother had just begun her cruel descent into dementia.  Mr. Bowen must have sensed that as he took her hand in both of his. 

          “My name is Bill,” he said gently.” What’s your name?”

          “My name is Donice,” she said. 

          “I’m glad to meet you Donice, he said as he patted her hand.” I’m glad Paul told me you were here. I want you to know that your son is a very fine man. I’m honored to meet his mother. And that’s all I want to say other than I hope you are enjoying the family reunion.”  
          “Thank you Sir,” my poor confused mother said.

          As he left he said,” You take care of your mom, Paul.  Call me if you need me.”    

          They say that you can tell if a man is a gentleman by the way that he treats the waiter.  And I agree with that.  But a gentleman is also a man who takes the time to impart a kindness for no other reason than he has the opportunity to do so.  After all, is there a mother that breathes who doesn't like to hear a compliment about her kid? Even if in the case of Donice's oldest boy, Bill Bowen had to apply considerable gild on an exceedingly dubious lily in the process.

          Like I said, I’m nobody.  But on that day years ago a truly great man like William H. Bowen offered to meet Nobody’s mother just because he had the opportunity to impart a kindness.  

          Thank you Mr. Bowen.  You were a gentleman.

          Rest in Peace. 




Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

I really am agnostic when it comes to most things Razorback.  One of my best friends doesn't believe this.  But it's true.  

But if you are going to be a fan of Division I sports in these here latitudes you have to be at least cognizant of what is going on up in the Ozarks when it comes to the kingdom Frank built.  Because with all due respect to Arkansas State fans the Arkansas Razorbacks may not be the only game in town but they are the biggest.

Ok.  So they're not really "in town" anymore.  They have forever abandoned Little Rock and it's crummy football facility.  But they still have a hold on the collective mindset of our fair city.  That much is fair to say.  

And last night they beat LSU up in Fayetteville to end a 17 game losing streak in the SEC and to even their record to 5-5 over all.  

Really, their record should be better.  The only team that beat the daylights out of them was Georgia here in Little Rock.  They should have beaten A & M.  They should have beaten Mississippi State and Alabama.  They had a chance against Auburn.  

And they blew all of those games high, wide and handsome.

Unlike some of my friends and acquaintances that have expressed an opinion on the matter, I am no expert on college football.  But you have to wonder how much psychic residue Houston Nutt-Bobby Petrino-John L. Smith left on this program.  But, as second year coach Bret Bielema-who a couple of my friends believe should be fired already-said, of last year's squad, that it was the first bad team he had ever seen that was completely blameless for how it got there.  

But last night may go a long way towards cleaning up the residue.  Not only did they thoroughly dominate a quality opponent, that quality opponent was LSU.  

Suffice it to say, the LSU fan base is borderline psychotic.  Worse than Alabama and Auburn even who can at least back it up.  Ole Miss's fans are merely delusional while Mississippi State's are just kinda cute given the latter's newly found-and so far not unprovable legal-major prowess.  And A & M and Missouri have even less business in the SEC than Arkansas.  

But LSU is the worst.  Not a game goes by-not even the ones the Tigers win-that commenters on blogs run by the New Orleans and Baton Rouge papers call for the scalp of Les Miles.  Charles McClendon-"Cholly Mac"-coached there for 18 years.  This sort of tenure is unthinkable down there given the advent of talk shows and internet bulletin boards.  Indeed, who could blame Miles if he said    " to hell with this" or the Cajun-French equivalent and took the soon-to-be-open job at Michigan from whence he graduated?  At least the Wolverines are just obsessed with Ohio State.  

So despite my agnosticism concerning all things WPS, it was indeed highly amusing to see the downtrodden Razorbacks lay it on the Bayou Bengals.  And I shall enjoy collecting on an improvident bet made by a friend in Baton Rouge, although I know at least one lawyer here in town that took LSU with the oddsmakers favoring the Razorbacks by two.

I do not begrudge him this.  Because I do not care and because I know that bidness is bidness.  

So next week the best 5-5 team in the country gets the Ole Miss Brown Bears at home.  I will root for the Razorbacks for no other reason than they are playing Ole Miss which is all sufficient to my mind.

To think that this bunch could get bowl-eligible next week is practically mind-boggling.  

Thanks LSU.  They couldn't have done it without you.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

The wife of one of Mr. Trimble's law partners approached my before the service.  
"I knew you played golf," Janie said. " I didn't know you could sing."

"I'm a lot better singer than I am a golfer," I replied. "Singing is easy."  

I suppose that I have sung at around 50-60 funerals in my day.  I have probably attended a hundred more.  It is my privilege to be in the orbit of many.  And so I seem to attend a lot of funerals.  

It is always a tricky thing when the laity speaks at funerals.  They are for most part not used to public speaking.  They tend to be understandably emotional. Indeed, it is for that reason that I declined the opportunity to sing or speak at my own mother's service.  And I'm experienced at both.  Come to think of it, while I have sung at any of a number of funerals I have never given a eulogy. I suppose hearing from me twice during one service would understandably be overkill.

I don't expect much at these times.  I'm not typically one to bother God with my supplications, seeing as how I figure He or She has better things to do than attend to my picayune concerns.  But I always pray when friends or family of the departed get up to speak.  

"Please God get them through this," I pray.

While I don't expect the Gettysburg Address at these times, I do expect a modicum of propriety and humility.  It's a low bar.  

Bearing this modest template for funeral oratory in mind, I can honestly say that the sermonette inflicted upon the congregation yesterday by the lay witness was by far the worst I have ever heard in my life.

He gave a few appropriate recollections that were truly amusing and gave insight into Mr. Trimble's formation into the gentleman he became. That was not sufficient.  He then veered off into a fundy hellfire and damnation sermon before his captive audience that was exquisitely inappropriate.  

Walls Trimble was a Presbyterian man of quiet dignity.  He would have been horrified.  

It went on and on.  He did everything but an altar call.  I was sitting behind the pulpit beside the Real Minister.  I noticed her inching forward in her chair. She was about to bring on the hook around Minute Twenty.  Mercifully, he shut up before that happened.

As we prepared for Mother's funeral, Vic Nixon told my brothers who wanted to speak his rules for witnessing at such times.

" You will have 5 minutes.  Don't preach.  That's my job."

Don't preach.  It's not your job.  

I didn't get to speak to the apostle afterwards.  It is just as well.  Because this is what I would have said.

" What you did was not about Walls.  It was about you. It wasn't really about proclaiming the Gospel.  It was about you.  And I guarantee you that the talk in cars going back to Little Rock or wherever won't be about old Walls.  And it won't be about how they are persuaded to accept your version of Christianity.  It will be about how dreadful your diatribe was before a captive audience that wasn't there to hear you preach.  That will be the recollection of this day."

The minister shook her head as she pulled off her robe after the service.

"I mean, you try to be respectful.  People are nervous.  People are emotional.  But that was hardly Presbyterian theology."

And that's the point.  It was a Presbyterian service after all.    

You try to be respectful.  

For God's sake.  You try to be respectful.  

Which means, at the minimum, when you are called to speak at a funeral, it can't be about you.  

Sunday, November 02, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

Just when I think (and boy I know I have written these words before) election rhetoric can not possibly descend any further to any lower depths, another two years comes along and proves me wrong.  While there is much to complain about from here in the electorate's Stygian darkness, where many "mute" buttons are fused to the "on" position, there is a recurrent leitmotif being bandied about (mostly on the "R" side of the equation as far as I can tell) that if a candidate has ever represented a Defendant in a criminal case, then ipso facto (as we say) said candidate is suspected of being "soft on crime."

The more prominent example of this argument (if indeed it rises to the level of same) involves a local attorney running for City Board.  Seems the one criminal case he has handled in his career was as a favor to somebody.  The Defendant pleaded out to some nickleshit shoplifting offense or something.  His lawyer went on to representing banks and other security threats.

For this one act, he has been labeled as "soft on crime."  This charge has been leveled at other lawyers in other various races who have represented Defendants in criminal cases.

Let's get the Civics lesson over first.  Under the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which we all profess to revere, a criminal defendant is not required to testify if his testimony would tend to incriminate him.  This right against self-incrimination ("taking the 5th") was expanded by the United States Supreme Court to include the right to have an attorney present during questioning by the authorities as well as the right to an attorney appointed by the government if he cannot afford one.

So, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, you and I have a constitutional right to be represented by counsel whenever we are taken into custody by the authorities.  This applies to juvenile court cases as well in which a juvenile is accused of having committed a delinquent act 

Further, when us local lawyers took the Oath to be admitted to the Bar we promised to "support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Arkansas." Further, we swore not to "reject, from any consideration personal to (ourselves) the cause of the impoverished, the defenseless, or the oppressed." Most lawyer's oaths everywhere have similar language.  

So, everybody has a right to a lawyer in a criminal case.  Lawyers have an ethical obligation to represent the poor and oppressed.  

And then there's Brandon Barber whose mugshot graces the top of this page. Barber, a former mover and shaker in Northwest Arkansas real estate caught around 65 months in Federal prison after pleading out to charges of bank fraud and money laundering to the tune of around 32 million bucks.  Interestingly enough, this is the amount both sides agreed to, although Barber may be ordered to repay a different amount after his restitution hearing. 

Property offenses are a big problem in my neighborhood.  Violent crime is worrisome and is often committed by really scary people.   Who ought to be locked up.

But I have always believed that white collar criminals are a bigger systemic menace to society than property offenders.  Property offenses are serious and they are a pain in the ass.  White collar guys take down several people at once. Charles Keating took down the Savings and Loan industry.  Bernie Maddoff bilked hundreds of investors.  How the guys that rigged the mortgage industry in the last decade haven't gotten indicted is rightly considered a scandal by some. And as for Barber, he didn't steal $32,000,000 without skinning numerous individuals and institutions.

And who represented Brandon Barber?  The Asa Hutchinson Law Group.  For those who don't know, Asa is the most likely going to be the next Republican Governor of Arkansas.  Indeed, his law firm's website states that 45% of his practice is devoted to white collar criminal defense.  This is how he made much of his living.  He and his son are listed on the docket as counsels of record in the Barber case.

So will you hear me accuse Asa Hutchinson of being "soft on crime?"  Not a chance.  I'm a lawyer.  Brandon Barber may be a snake in the grass but he has a right to counsel.  And Asa is a damn good one.  

But if the current Republican meme is that representing a low level dumbass means you are "soft on crime" than what does representing white collar punks that cause immeasurably more harm to society than a shoplifter mean?

It's a fair question.  And one that won't get raised.

Meanwhile, I will continue to watch sports in blessed silence until Tuesday when the polls mercifully close.