Saturday, October 20, 2007

Texan of the Year

Every year, for the past three Decembers, the Dallas Morning News’ editorial board has chosen one person, or group, to be its Texan of the Year. Since Karl Rove earned its initial “honor,” you cannot be judged by the company you keep.
However, this year, the choice will be difficult. Few Texans, if any, have distinguished themselves for such an accolade.
Except one man.
Last spring, former Dallas Cowboys running back Ron Springs received a healthy kidney from his Cowboys teammate Everson Walls. It marked the first organ transplant involving former U.S. professional teammates.
He did it willingly and without hesitation. He did not do it for the publicity or the fame – he had already garnered plenty of both on the gridiron. He did it because Ron Springs was his friend and there was a dire need.
When it was announced, people were shocked by the bravery and sacrifice, but, after all, isn’t that what friends are for (to pardon the cliché song)?
Sadly, Springs, 50, has been in a coma for more than a week after admission to Dallas’ Medical City Hospital for what friends believed was a routine medical procedure to remove a cyst from one of his arms.
The family won’t say why or how Springs lapsed into his coma and his prognosis is, at best, termed “bleak.”
However, it does not diminish the sacrifice made by Walls and the heroism shown by one friend to another.
The story sounds eerily like the Mickey Mantle liver transplant in 1995. Despite the heroic efforts to save him, Mantle was doomed from the get-go. However, in his last days, “The Mick,” hero to two generations of young boys and all baseball fans (n ot just for the Yankees) brought needed attention to organ transplants and his sacrifice probably saved countless lives.
Perhaps this story will also help shine the light on an important factor of medicine ... and will eventually help save lives. if that happens, Ron Springs and Everson Walls will be more than members of “America’s Team” – they will be American heroes … and why Walls is worthy of the title, Texan of the Year.

Friday, October 12, 2007

When will someone tape this woman's mouth SHUT?!?

Dear Ann Coulter,
Please, on behalf of my fellow Jews, let say this as gently as possible.
Here is the report from and the transcript was made available on Media Matters for America.

Conservative commentator and best-selling author Ann Coulter may find herself in the midst of a controversy for comments Monday suggesting America would be
better if everyone was Christian.
Asked by CNBC host Donny Deutsch what the U.S. looks like in her dreams, Coulter said it would look like the Republican National Convention in 2004 (held in New York City).
“People were happy,” she said, according to a transcript provided to CNN by CNBC. “They’re Christian. They’re tolerant. They defend America.”
When Deutsch responded, “It would be better if we were all Christian?” Coulter said “Yeah.”
Deutsch, himself Jewish, continued to press Coulter on her remarks, asking, “We should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians then?”
“Yeah,” Coulter responded, adding “Well, it’s a lot easier. It’s kind of a fast track.”
“You can’t possibly believe that,” Deutsch responded. “You can’t possibly. You’re too educated.”
“Do you know what Christianity is?” Coulter replied. “See, we believe your religion, but you have to obey. We have the fast track program.”
Later in the interview, Deutsch asked Coulter if she doesn’t want any Jews in the world, Coulter responded, “No, we think — we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.”
“Wow, you didn’t really say that, did you?” Deutsch said.

This poor excuse for an American just need to find the rock she crawled from under and get back to where she once belonged, to quote the Beatles. She is a loathsome parasite who sucks the life out of any meaningful political discussion with her flamethrower attitude and disgusting personal references.
As an author, she is no even close to being in the class of a William F. Buckley, George Will, David Brooks or even that toadie, Charles Krauthammer. At least HE can write. She is more akin to what Britney Spears is to popular culture.
The only reason any conservative takes her seriously on a partial scale is that all the male neo-cons want to fuck her brains out and she gives that impression better than any hooker in Sen. David Vetter’s little black book. She appears on TV in her party girl short dresses and peroxide blonde locks and is about two days away from major botox injections.
And her face?!?!! Only a four-legged stallion could appreciate that visage. Believe me, I am being kind in my description. It could get a lot worse and far more vulgar.
I can dismiss the political crap as just the cackling of a midway carney. But this constant drumbeat for a theocracy by the crackpot conservatives, now named crackheads in my book, so offends me to the core as to be anti-American. How dare people like her, and other so-called Christians defile the teachings of Jesus, which, by the way, were done before fellow Jews, with their warped sense of self-importance. Damn, if Jesus himself were to appear in the modern world, he’d be castigated by the very folks who swear to God that they are true believers.
Hitler was also a so-called Christian and a so-called true believer.
Is she “anti-Semitic?” Who REALLY knows? Is she insensitive and really just wants the spotlight all to herself by tossing out these verbal IEDs for no other reason than to offend, stir the pot and draw attention to her? Absolutely.
If you read this posting and are offended by my comments, just think of how I, and others like me (meaning Jewish) feel? When, dear God, will this kind of religious elitism END?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Upsetting one’s Constitution

Texas voters will be asked to return to various polling sites on Tuesday, Nov. 6 to approve, or disapprove, some 16 amendments to the state constitution, and frankly, it’s going to be an underwhelming response by the electorate. Almost nothing on the ballot is on major consequence and the time and expense is yet another reason why Texas needs to scrub its constitution clean and tighten the document to reflect all the hundreds of conflicting amendments.
On the ballot will be such illuminating matters as continuing to send funds to Angelo State University while it undergoes a change in its governance (Proposition 1). Quick, name the mascot for Angelo State. (Answer: Rams).
Proposition 12 provides “for the issuance of general obligation bonds by the Texas Transportation Commission in an amount not to exceed $5 billion to provide funding for highway improvement projects” but comes at an interesting time when the Texas Department of Transportation is whining about running out of repair funds. So which is it??
Some amendments (number 13 to deny bail for people violating certain court orders or conditions of release in felony or family violence cases or number 14 to allow a judge to finish his or her term even after reaching the mandatory retirement age in mid-term) should probably best be handled through regular state law. Others involve issuances of bonds to create various institutions or help targeted areas. Four amendments concern property taxes and exemptions for rural residents, car owners and totally disabled veterans. Again, why must a voter in Wichita Falls or Marfa have to go to the polls for something essentially to be decided by the legislature?
A few propositions are just too vague to know of their eventual impact on Texans. Number 8 states, “The constitutional amendment to clarify certain provisions relating to the making of a home equity loan and use of home equity loan proceeds.” Soooo … exactly what does THAT mean? What provisions and what clarifications?
Sadly, Proposition 2 should not be on the ballot at all. “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of $500 million in general obligation bonds to finance educational loans to students and authorizing bond enhance­ment agreements with respect to general obligation bonds issued for that purpose.”
This is to shore up the Texas Tomorrow Fund because prior legislative sessions and decisions have allowed this worthy program to virtually starve to death – all in the name of some sort of invisible property tax cut that few people have seen come to genuine fruition.
Proposition 7 sounds logical but might be really confusing. “The constitutional amendment to allow govern­mental entities to sell property acquired through eminent domain back to the previous owners at the price the entities paid to acquire the property.” If an entity goes through the trouble of the hated eminent domain process (to seize property from someone for something or other), why reverse the process? If it were me, I would want something MORE for my troubles than merely the original price and a note stating, “Sorry; never mind.”
In my mind, the most important question is Proposition 19, the so-called Recorded Votes proposal, “… to require that a record vote be taken by a house of the legislature on final passage of any bill, other than certain local bills, of a resolution proposing or ratifying a constitutional amendment, or of any other nonceremonial resolution, and to provide for public access on the Internet to those record votes.”
Government conducted in secret is simply wrong – regardless of the level on which it is done. With the small exceptions allowed in the Texas Open Meetings Act, everything should be above board and plainly told to the tax paying citizens who elect these officials to represent them (not to enrich their own coffers or fatten the wallets of a privileged few).
One of the major problems in Austin is the burning desire to keep certain votes hush-hush as to not tell the people exactly what in the heck is happening in the Capitol Dome. For years, the powers-that-be have wanted many of their votes to be out of public view in order to avoid accountability. Any other hogwash excuse is just the plain, smelly droppings from the back end of a horse.
Finally, after years (perhaps decades) or trying by newspapers like the one I used to own or manage, and other open government groups, the voters will have a chance to begin holding their elected representative more accountable by making each vote cast ON THE RECORD. I strongly urge all of you to vote “yes” for Number 19 – so you will know exactly when these officials stand.
But my favorite choice on Nov. 6 is Proposition 10: “… to abolish the constitutional authority for the office of inspector of hides and animals.”
I will tell you that I am voting “no” on this.
I know many a legislator that needs his or her hide tanned. Often.

Friday, October 05, 2007

That WAS the life!

His friends said goodbye to Tom Beesley yesterday. It was a sad affair because funerals usually are that way; you might celebrate the life of someone, but you also know, in your heart, that he or she won’t be with you, or among you, anymore.
For almost five years, Tom was part of the Cedar Hill, Texas, scene as the editor of the Cedar Hill Today newspaper (while I served as editor of Lancaster Today), and often, conscience. He was ever-present with his camera, his smile, his wit and his energy. If something important was happening in Cedar Hill, from football to council sessions to features on ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things, he was there.
He was there when the television tower tragically and fatally crumbled on the morning of Country Day on the Hill. He was present when the Lady Longhorns made back-to-back trips to Austin in their quest for a Class 4A state basketball crown.
Because that was the man he was – he always wanted to be the one who was in the middle of the action; the person you could count upon to get the job done and the right photo at the right moment. That was his talent and that was his gift to us. It hurt him NOT to be asked to go somewhere – regardless of what he had to do. He would juggle it all anyway to be there where people needed him.
When he and I were like the Batman and Robin (or often the Abbott and Costello) of Today Newspapers (and later for the Frisco Enterprise and DFW Community Newspapers in Frisco, Allen and Plano), we expended our work to all the papers in the Today family.
We could be found in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day (including one game so cold and foggy that we couldn’t see the other sideline from the press box), at Reunion Arena to report on a Best Southwest legend in the pros, or at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco to watch Cedar Hill alum Derrius Thompson in action. The 1996 season of Football Saturday publications proved to be an ill-fated experiment in business terms, but it was an opportunity to practice our craft on a serious deadline basis. Once deadlines were met, we would sit and shoot the breeze, like old soldiers exchanging war stories.
Tom also loved music, he played the bass when he found the time and his choices were almost as eclectic as mine. We would see a Czechoslovakian bluegrass group (Druha Trava) one night in Mineola, and then rock out to the trumpet of Bill Tillman at the gazebo in Lancaster for Musicfest the following week.
He loved cars – fast cars – and he loved racing, having covered the California motorcycle circuit for a magazine years before. He was one of the best auto reviewers in Texas and whenever he drove a new vehicle, it, and he, usually drew attention. One night, at a Longhorn baseball game, Tom parked the new VW Beetle, previously unseen to the general public, and almost everyone in the stands forgot the game and drifted to see this blast from the past. Even the coaches and umpires wanted a peek after the game.
He kind of hated modern technology, being an old school as I was, especially when his computer inevitably crashed in the middle of deadline work. His “reactions” were often headshakers, but that was Tom. He wanted to do the best job possible, despite any gremlins that got in his path.
“I think I’ve still got the eye and the desire and some good photos are still coming out of the old man,” he told me about a year ago.
Most of all, he loved his family, notably his wife, Sylvia and his son, Jared. Nothing brought a quicker tear to his eye than to watch Jared, a gifted musician in his own right, on a stage, or on a bicycle in his short-track cycling career. They were not tears of sorrow, but tears of tremendous pride.
As I said, he was someone a person who count upon to help; which was the reason I called him on Nov. 4, 1997, at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m., lying in the ICU section of Charlton Methodist Hospital in South Dallas suffering from a heart attack. I trusted no one else to make sure that the right people were informed and that all other aspects would not be interrupted. He groused initially but was the first one at the hospital and the person who cared more than anyone else.
In the last few years, Tom found another passion – sailing. It gave him an inner peace that might have been missing, despite all that he was involved with. In an e-mail, he told me how he felt:
“Fortunately for me, the sailboats are saving the day. I endure going to work so I can take off to go sailing, whereas, when we worked together, I worked because that’s what I did. I was a desperation workaholic. Now I see there are other things in life besides news photos and believe it or not, in recent months, I’ve actually gone somewhere and just forgot to take a camera along. When my blood pressure is way up and I think I feel it squishing through my brain, I get concerned and worried. So I go sailing instead of going to work.
“And strangely, I have not written a word about sailing.”
When I close my eyes and think of my friend, I go back to the Cotton Bowl on July 4, 1995, where we were covering the inaugural season of the MLS’ Dallas Burn. It was the first holiday match and was held in conjunction with the annual Freedom Festival at the old Starplex (perhaps a Huey Lewis and the News concert). The contest ended with a Burn victory and then all the fans, more than 20,000, stayed for a huge fireworks show.
Among the ones waiting for the fireworks were the Burn players and anyone else who wanted this unique vantage point – the perfect pitch (field) that was the Cotton Bowl. The field was lush green and felt like the finest carpet imaginable. Among us was Burn goalie Mark Dodd and his toddler daughter, simply playing as a father and child would. Tom took some photos and struck up a friendship.
So as two grown men, lying on the soft stadium turf, watching with childlike amazement at the color bursts high in the Dallas night, we just looked at each other, and almost simultaneously said, “Man, this IS the life!”
Tom Beesley will now forever be looking at the sun and the stars, having fulfilled that statement.

When kids simply go bad

Author's Note: The following column was published in today's ediiton (Oct. 5) edition of the Collin County Opinion Pages of the Dallas Morning News.
In this world, there is no such thing as a complete and iron-clad guarantee. I once had a roof installed on a building I owned and it came with a "lifetime" guarantee. Of course, when it needed fixing, and the reputable firm was no longer in existence, there was no more "lifetime" guarantee.
Not every car runs perfectly. Not every garment is stitched exactly. Not every battery starts each time.
And not every child turns out to be good. Some of them do bad things, no matter how good of a job their parents did. They lie, they steal, they cheat. Some they do very, very bad things … including murder.
There are probably thousands of incidents that plague today’s society — where those referred to as "good children" go so terribly wrong. When it gets as bad as it can, with kids killing kids, it doesn’t just happen in America’s inner cities, which most of us would just as soon forget about. It occurs in small towns involving young people easily described as "All-American."
In many cases, perpetrators come from broken homes without the proper parental guidance to steer them away from heinous criminal activities. In many cases, these children find solace and mis-guidance in gangs or cliques, leading to greater lawbreaking. History also begets history; it is well documented that the children of abusers themselves often (not always) become abusive. Just think of what happens when they begin to "raise" their own children?
But often parents do everything society has asked — all the proper family values are taught time and again. Yet the sad stories persist.
So what’s a parent to do? Parental responsibility can only go so far. At some point, that "child" must assume his or her responsibility for their actions. The concept of "if you do the crime, you do the time" can’t be wiped away because of a perpetrator’s age. At some point, a person has got to know better. If you rob, you’re a thief; if you kill, you’re a killer … at 16, 26 or 60.
In my extended family, there’s a couple that we adore, and they are as good as the day is long. For all their lives, they have respected others, helped people and been nary a burden upon anyone.
However, one of their sons is locked in a mental institution because of drug abuse, and another son is imprisoned for life for murdering his wife while under the influence of drugs. Yet their parents raised them correctly.
Parenting really involves throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. In their children, a parent can only instill proper morals, the knowledge and spirit of what’s right and wrong, and the importance of treating people with love, respect and kindness. You can teach them proper work ethic, the value of sharing and helping others and then, through example, you live that kind of principled, "Golden Rule" life. You can provide all the creature comforts and make the home shine with love and caring.
Then you cast them from the nest and hope, and pray that the spaghetti sticks.
Most of the time, those efforts are justly rewarded; sometimes, nothing you do matters. You can’t continue to bang your head against the wall and live with a permanent mental (or actual) ulcer about "what did I do wrong?"
Actions affect more people than realized; the pain is extended to many victims, including parents and family members on both sides of tragedies. But it would be wrong to simply go around and blanket-judge parents without garnering the full picture, just because their children followed the wrong paths of life.
Because sometimes, some kids merely go bad and there ain’t a darn thing you, or the spaghetti, can do about it.