Most of us have been swept up in the momentum of the holiday season. We have passed Thanksgiving, reached the Christmas milestone and are approaching New Year’s Day, the third in the trilogy of holidays.
Sure, there is a lot of our attention on holiday shopping, football, and social events. But it is also a time to reflect of what the three holidays can mean to all of us. A second chance, and maybe even a new beginning.
On Thanksgiving Day, we recognized and celebrated the new start of the Pilgrims who made the two-month journey from England to America back in 1620. They too wanted a second chance. They were searching for a better life with the freedom to live and worship in their own way, free from the intolerance they faced under King James I and the Church of England. Their leaders created the Mayflower Compact, which established a new set of laws so that they could be treated equally and fairly as part of their new way of life. A rebirth. A new beginning for all of them.
The second link in the trilogy, and to Christians the most important, is the Christmas season. The Bible teaches that Christ died on the cross to give believers a second chance.
There is one book that I try to read over the holidays every year — “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. In the early 1960s, I had a golden opportunity to study English Literature at Cambridge University in England, where the writings of Dickens were my focus.
Dickens was a major literary personality in his day, and newspapers serialized many of his stories. He initially published under the pen name of “Boz,” and he used this pseudonym for many of his early novels. He entertained his wide London audience with humor in books like, “The Pickwick Papers” and “The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby.” Dickens pulled at the heartstrings of his readers with the drama of “Oliver Twist” and “A Tale of Two Cities.” But as the Christmas season approached in 1843, Dickens began using his own name, and took on the role of a crusader with the publication of “A Christmas Carol.”
Most of us have seen this poignant Christmas story filled with an array of colorful characters like Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. But the real lessons of the spirit that emanate from this special time of year come, not from miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, but from his dead partner, Jacob Marley. While alive, Marley failed to help others, and in death he is damned to the agony of recognizing the pain and suffering of others, and being unable to help in anyway, and this is his special hell.
My attorney friend, Eric Duplantis, who practices law and writes in the small town of Franklin, Louisiana, puts it this way: “In life, Marley’s worst sin was not his venality, but his indifference. After death he realizes this. But it’s too late. Death gave him compassion, but his sentence for a lifetime of indifference is an inability to act on the compassion he feels.”
Marley is given a single opportunity to do a good act, after which he must return to his Hell. The ghost gives Scrooge the greatest gift of all. Marley gives Scrooge the chance of redemption. The message here from Dickens is that even someone as lost as Ebenezer Scrooge can be saved if he seizes this one-time gift of a second chance.
Here’s hoping that the coming year brings you the opportunity of a second chance if you feel you need one. We all generally do. But whether you do or you don’t, may you and your family have a blessed and healthy holiday season and a very happy New Year. As Tiny Tim said in “The Christmas Carol,” God bless us every one.
Peace and Justice
The President has made illegal immigrants who have moved in to what are called “Sanctuary Cities” a major issue in recent months, even signing an executive order cutting off funds to municipalities that ignore federal law. The Crescent City is in the forefront of ignoring federal law and protecting those there illegally.
Can the City of New Orleans pick and choose which federal laws it will acknowledge and enforce? Most of us understand that if you violate a federal law, then there are consequences. You most likely will be prosecuted and punished. Federal laws on the books are supposed to apply to everyone. That is unless you are an illegal immigrant living in New Orleans.
Didn’t we fight a Civil War over the nullification of federal laws? A century and a half later, New Orleans has joined a host of other American cities in declaring that federal immigration laws are just right down bothersome. It is irrelevant to city leaders in the Crescent City that their actions in supporting widespread illegal immigration is a factor in causing crime rates to rise, and the cost of auto insurance for every Louisiana driver to go up.
No one seems to know how many illegal immigrants have gravitated to Louisiana. Guesstimates have varied from 75,000 to more than 150,000. But when an illegal is arrested for a crime committed in the state, federal law requires that local law enforcement authorities notify the U.S. Immigration and Customs office. New Orleans is not enforcing this requirement. As a New Orleans police department spokesman was quoted as saying: “In general, we’re not cooperating with the ICE.”
So immigrants who are in New Orleans illegally often create a false identity, use a fraudulent Social Security number, falsify federal forms, and, if arrested, are free to go once released by the New Orleans Police Department. We witnessed recently the tragic killing of a young woman in San Francisco, murdered by an illegal immigrant, who was a repeat felon and who had been deported five times.
Crime rates are on the upswing in New Orleans. A just released report by research firm 24/7 Wall Street concludes that New Orleans had the highest per capita firearm homicide rate in the nation—four times the national rate. No one knows how many illegal immigrants are committing crimes, because the city refuses to both monitor and release this information.
And just watch auto insurance rates, already the highest in the nation, go up even more as this policy from the New Orleans Police Department’s immigration manual is implemented. “Officers shall not enforce La. 14.100.13, which states that no alien students or non—resident alien shall operate a motor vehicle in the state without documentation that the person is lawfully present in the United States.” So ignore this state law, right New Orleans? You should just pick and choose what laws you like and the laws you don’t like. Is that what Louisiana has come to?
Traffic accident records show that illegal immigrants are a high risk of not carrying auto insurance. So a driver not at fault has to use their own insurance to pay the damage costs, and insurance rates continue to go up.
What happened that caused the deterioration of the laws on the books concerning illegal immigration? When you break into my home, you are committing a crime. But when you break into my country, it has become, to our leaders in Washington and New Orleans, merely an embarrassing inconvenience. Republicans are now throwing in the towel and giving up on seeing that current law is enforced. Has it become OK to set aside the law and ignore its violation for political purposes?
And what’s all this stuff about “undocumented workers?” The lead Republican in this effort to legalize those who have illegally entered the United States is Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio. He conveniently refers to these illegals as “individuals who are living in the United States without proper immigration documents.” That’s like saying that your local drug dealer is in possession of large amounts of cocaine, but just forgot to get a doctor’s prescription.
There should be major risks and consequences when laws are broken. But besides the President, both political parties are pandering to Hispanic voters who often are sympathetic to lax immigration enforcement. Will Donald Trump goad members of congress to take on Sanctuary cities like New Orleans, and lead a charge for strong enforcement of immigration laws? Let’s hope so.
“All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.”
Peace and Justice
The horrific Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 people dead last week was, for good reason, called “the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.” It was a ghastly crime of appalling proportions. Robert Bowers is charged with 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder and multiple counts of hate crimes. If he is convicted, as he most assuredly will be, then the death penalty would, and should, be fully justified.
“The crimes of violence are based upon the federal civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes,” said Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney, and Bob Jones, the FBI special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh office. Brady further avowed that Bowers could face the death penalty if he is convicted of a hate crime.
So, what’s a hate crime you ask? If someone is premeditatedly shot and killed, that’s commonly murder. When you’re dead, you are dead, and there is a strong penalty for that; generally, life or the death penalty. But hate crime supporters want more than justice. They want vengeance.
Under federal law, one can be charged with a hate crime if the crime was motivated by hatred involving race, religion, national origin, color or sexual preference. Penalties for crimes against these groups already exist, but under the law such crimes are enhanced by what’s in the perpetrator’s mind. What ever happened to double jeopardy? Simply put, a prosecutor can bring charges not only for an accused’s conduct, but they also can go after him for his thoughts. In the Four Lads song, Standing on The Corner, Watching All The Girls Go By, there is the lyric, “Brother, you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking.” Well, in the case of hate laws, apparently you can.
Having deeply troubling concerns over a thought police is nothing new. George Orwell’s novel, 1984 paints a disturbing and chilling scenario where one can be accused of a crime, arrested and prosecuted merely for thoughts in your mind. “The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed… the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime they called it… Sooner or later they were bound to get you.”
Have you ever gotten so mad and pent up that you went into a rage and said things you really didn’t mean? “That sorry, no count blank, blank, blank, blank! I’ll get even with him!” Have you ever used a racial slur? Oh, no, you say. But then, upon reflection, maybe you did once or twice. Does that make you a racist?
If there is supposed to be equal justice under the law, shouldn’t the punishment be based on the crime, and not on who the victim is? If a deranged killer opens fire in a shopping mall, is this less of a crime than a maniac opening fire in a club filled with African Americans or gays? Otherwise, when a life is taken, aren’t we making a determination that that the lives of one particular group have greater value than the lives of another group? Isn’t it a fundamental principle of a democracy that the punishment fits the crime, not the victim?
Ayn Rand wrote about the divisiveness that takes place when preferences are given under the law. “There is no sure way to infect mankind with hatred – brute, blind, virulent hatred – than by splitting it into ethnic groups or tribes.”
Freedom in America means the freedom to have bad thoughts. I may not like what you are thinking, but ideas alone should not be a crime. A criminal should be punished for bad acts, not bad thoughts. James Madison said it well: “We have extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making the laws for the human mind.”
When it comes to crime, yes there should be a protected class that gets full protection from the criminal justice system. That protected class should be all Americans. And every American should be treated equally.
Peace and Justice
Whatever the final result over the confirmation battle of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, one thing is becoming more urgent. The court itself has a crisis of legitimacy. And one way to restore its genuineness is to require term limits for all future judges.
The Supreme Court of old was more majestic with few periods of confrontation. Just a decade ago, 2/3rds of Americans had great confidence in the Court. No more. There’s trouble brewing in those marble temple walls. Confidence in the workings of the court and the Justices themselves have dropped to a mere 50% approval rating.
And it should not be any surprise as to why the Supremes are held is such low esteem. They have become a partisan body, every bit as political as the other two branches of government. We saw such partisanship front and center in the Bush-Gore election decision and in the court’s blessing of Obamacare. Five to four split decisions are becoming the norm with Republican appointees voting one way and their Democratic counterparts voting just the opposite. No more moderates or progressives on the court. Just jurists who are either hard right or hard left.
The writers of the constitution never envisioned such partisanship. The nation’s founding fathers imagined a court made up of legal sages, devoid of the political pressures experienced by congress and the president. Justices of the past seemed to relish in their image of being independent and simply interpreting the law as written.
Current Chief Justice John Roberts made a vain attempt to enunciate such a balanced philosophy at his confirmation hearings back in 2005 when he told the Senate judiciary Committee:
“Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire. Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath.”
So justices are not influenced by their own personal opinions? Good luck with that. Partisanship has never been so extreme. Judge Kavanaugh was never going to receive any democratic support from the day he was nominated. And republicans in the senate refused to even consider or hold a hearing on President Obama’s last pick, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland. New justices taking office are well aware of their partisan supporters. And such awareness certainly affects their view of becoming activists by extending or even creating the law, rather than merely interpreting it as envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
So why term limits? For a starter, no other democracy in the world gives life tenure to a sitting judge. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any other profession that makes appointments for life. Sure, the constitutional scholars back in the 1770s created lifetime appointments. But remember that the average life span back then for a U. S. citizen was 35 years.
Chief Justice Roberts endorsed term limits back in 1983 when he stated: “Setting a term of, say, 15 years would ensure that federal judges would not lose all touch with reality through decades of ivory tower existence.” And that’s an important point. The court has, too often, been occupied by aging justices who habitually seem disengaged from the world surrounding them. You would think that the court should have dynamism and consistency that a rotation of new judges would bring. It’s hard to breathe new life into a court that bases its make up on actuarial tables and the luck of the draw as to who lives the longest.
Under the current system, a president can only serve in office for eight years yet can appoint a Justice or judge who can stay on the bench for 40 year or more. One term of say 16 years makes sense. Poll after poll show that voters want term limits for judges. With all the controversy in Washington over who ends up on the court, now seems like a good time to consider such a change.
I have a confession to make. And President Trump is not going to like it. I’m a southern country lawyer. Darn proud of it. In the President’s words, I may be a “dumb southern country lawyer.” I just hope the President does not have a sneering contempt for all of us Louisiana lawyers who cut our teeth practicing law in the rural areas of the Bayou State.
If you are unaware of the President’s supposed pot shots at those of us who ply our trade in the more pastoral boroughs of the state, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward has out a new “tell all” book entitled “Fear: Trump in the White House.” Woodward you recall was the reporter who dropped the bombshell on the Nixon White House back in 1972, and was portrayed by Robert Redford in the film, “All the President’s Men.”
Woodward writes of many revelations claiming he received insider information from current White House operatives who listen to the President on a daily basis. And, according to the book, Donald Trump makes it clear there is no love lost between him and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He is quoted as saying that: “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. . . . He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer.”
Now I’m reading this to mean that “a one-person country lawyer” is about as simple and elementary as you can get if legal guidance is required. No real talent or expertise required. Just a little folksy off the shoulder opinion will do.
Do you have to be an Ivy League barrister to have the knowledge and expertise to make sound and compelling legal decisions? It’s a fact that all the current members of the U.S. Supreme Court attended either Harvard or Yale. But maybe that’s part of the problem with a number of questionable high court decisions. As Alabama law professor Ronald Krotoszynski wrote recently, “Are an attorney’s perspectives and capabilities “defined by the three years he or she spent in law school? Shouldn’t professional experience and judgment matter too? “
I graduated from Tulane Law School back in 1966 and moved to the rural town of Ferriday, Louisiana with a population of 5000. There were a few other lawyers in the surrounding parishes, most of who graduated from LSU. No specialized legalese in these rural courthouses. Lawyers had to know a good bit about all phases of the law, both criminal and civil.
I handled civil cases ranging from divorces and small claims and stood toe to toe with big shot eastern attorneys representing General Motors and a number of major oil companies. On the criminal side, I was often appointed by the local judge to represent a cross section of those accused of robberies right up to capital cases. Many readers will remember the notorious Jim Leslie murder case that happened in Baton Rouge back in the 1970s. Leslie’s killer was gunned down in Concordia Parish and I was appointed to defend this killer. I can tell you the whole sorted story.
Here’s my point. Country lawyers, particularly in the South, rarely take a narrowly defined career path. Sure, an attorney has to know the law. But there also is a need to comprehend the practicalities of how the law should be applied and how such application affects and impacts the average citizen.
I’ve come across a number of outstanding lawyers who graduated from Tulane, LSU and Southern law schools. They often have both solid legal aptitude and a good bit of plain old common sense. Our judges, by and large, stack up with barristers anywhere in the country, and we certainly have the legal talent that is qualified to stand shoulder to shoulder with any justice presently on the U.S. Supreme Court.
So give us a break Mr. President. We might surprise you down here in the deepest of the deep southern states. Yes, some up north may call us dumb southern country lawyers. But I have worked with many Louisiana attorneys, particularly in smaller towns, that can go eyeball to eyeball with any Ivy Leaguer. Simply put Mr. President, we wear our southern country lawyer title proudly.
John McCain was a rare commodity in U. S. politics. He was a war hero, full of good-natured irreverence, and a contrarian in the Republican Party. McCain made it abundantly clear that he put America before party politics. And when they both served in congress, McCain and Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer became good friends.
I met and visited Senator McCain on one occasion at the invitation of Roemer. The meeting was at the former governor’s Baton Rouge office, and McCain made it very clear to me that he loved Louisiana. He told me outside of his home state of Arizona, “there’s no place I’d rather be to enjoy the great food and the company of really lively and interesting folks than down her in Louisiana.”
Buddy Roemer had been out of the limelight for seventeen years, once he stepped down as Louisiana’s Governor in 1991. But when Senator John McCain wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, Roemer found himself back in the catbird’s seat as a major player on the national scene.
Roemer signed on with the McCain team over a year before the election when the Arizona senator was just one of many in the pack. The Louisiana governor was on my syndicated radio show early on, touting McCain’s credentials when his campaign seemed to be in free-fall. By then Roemer had emerged as a key McCain adviser, and was featured in TV spots nationwide.
Buddy Roemer has always been a gambler. When he was governor, his campaign disclosure statements regularly showed winnings at poker games held at the Governor’s mansion. And Roemer has never been averse to playing a long shot, even on his own campaigns. He fought uphill races to get elected to Congress in the 1980s, and was in the rear of the pack in governor’s race when the campaign began back in 1987.
During the 2008 presidential election, Louisiana Senator David Vitter had initially pushed Louisiana republicans to support the quixotic campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. But when Giuliani’s campaign crashed and burned, Roemer quietly began lining up support and raising campaign funds for McCain. If the Republican candidate had ended up being successful in that coming fall presidential election, Roemer would have emerged as a cabinet secretary, ambassador, or hold some other high post in a McCain administration.
When George Bush was elected president in 2000, Roemer was under serious consideration to be Ambassador to China. He used to play tennis with the former President Bush 43, and stayed in touch with a cross-section of Republicans throughout the country.
After getting out of elective office, Roemer had been involved in several successful bank ventures. But the lure of public service was still there. If John McCain became the next president, the odds were pretty good that a former Governor of Louisiana was going to be heading to Washington, DC.
McCain’s presidential aspirations were unsuccessful, but he did carry Louisiana with 60% of the vote. After being side tracked by Barack Obama, he went on to spend 10 more successful years in the U.S. Senate. Roemer built more banks and became a popular Louisiana author.
If you had to sum up John McCain’s life in a couple of words, they would be “honor and character.” He ruffled the feathers of a number of republicans by working with democrats across the aisle on issues he felt were good for America. His philosophy was simple - put country before party politics.
Knowing of his impending death, McCain said about his life: “ I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. … I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times. I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.”
Sums up a pretty darn good life.
Peace and Justice
With one recent Supreme Court Justice confirmed and another just appointed by President Trump, the issue of televising hearings before the nation’s highest court will surely be discussed. The Supremes have stood steadfastly against letting the public watch the cases argued before them, even though the court’s decisions can often have major implications for every American. The Constitution guarantees that trials are public and open to everyone. And what could be more public than televising a criminal trial for the whole world to see?
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker wrote recently that cameras should be taken out of the courtroom, particularly in high-profile trials. She concludes: “Our mighty respect for the public’s right to know — has clouded our judgment. There may be no way to quantitatively prove that cameras influence courtroom behavior and, possibly, a trial’s outcome. But anyone who’s ever sat in front of a camera knows that it is so.”
I disagree with Ms. Parker. The criminal justice system could use some help. A majority of Americans feel that justice often doesn’t prevail. A nationwide poll by the respected Rasmussen Reports found that 45% of Americans feel that the justice system is fair. Only 34% felt that the system is unbiased to the poor. That’s a lot of cynicism. Maybe more public trials would help skeptics gain more confidence in a system where many feel over half the time that justice is not served.
America has a strong tradition of public trials. In early colonial America, courthouses were the centers of community life, and most citizens regularly attended criminal trials. In fact, trials frequently became community events. Citizens were knowledgeable about trials, and there was wide participation in the process — especially in rural America, where prosecutions were often scheduled on market day, when local farmers came to town for supplies. Many courtrooms were built to accommodate 300 or more observers.
Back then, citizens closely observed the defendants, knew when judges issued ridiculous rulings, and saw firsthand whenever justice was perverted. Whatever happened, the citizens were there, watching. The court system belonged to them. The televising of criminal trials would merely be an extension of this direct review by the average citizen.
Would televising criminal trials create a circus atmosphere? There’s no reason to think that they would. In fact, many of our most sacred ceremonies, including church services and inaugurations, are televised without dignity being lost. Judge Burton Katz said it well: “We should bring pressure to bear on all judges to open up their courtrooms to public scrutiny. Members of the judiciary enjoy great entitlements and wield enormous power. They bear close watching by an informed public. I guarantee that the public would be amazed at what goes on in some courtrooms.”
Back in 1997 when I was a practicing attorney in Louisiana, I participated in the state’s first televised trial before the Louisiana Supreme Court. A state senator was opposing my authority to impound the automobiles of uninsured drivers. I was the elected state Insurance Commissioner at the time, and represented the state in our effort to uphold the impoundment law. The issue was important to the vast majority of Louisianans, and they were entitled to hear the arguments, and watch the trial in progress. No one pandered to the cameras, and the entire courtroom procedure was straightforward and dignified. The proceedings were televised without a hitch.
Harvard law professor and criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz put it this way: “Live television coverage may magnify the faults in the legal system, and show it warts and all. But in a democracy the public has the right to see its institutions in operation, close-up. Moreover, live television coverage generally brings out the best, not the worst in judges, lawyers and other participants. The video camera helps to keep the system honest by keeping it open.”
America prides itself in being an open society that protects and encourages the public’s right to know. Too often, courtrooms have become bastions of secrecy where the public has little understanding of how the system works and how verdicts are reached.
The video camera serves as a check and balance. We can better keep the system honest by keeping it open and easily available to the public. Time to turn on the cameras.
Peace and Justice
Louisiana has been called the Culinary Mecca of America. Folks in this part of the country can take just about anything edible and make it not just good, but quite exceptional. And when we say anything, we mean everything. There is virtually no limit to what a Cajun will put in a gumbo. Well, because of federal restrictions, there is one thing-horsemeat.
For years, Congress has banned the sale of horsemeat for consumption in the U.S. But that could well change under the proposed budget by the Trump Administration.
Now I’ll admit that most of us do not regularly run down to our local supermarket to check on whether a fresh shipment of horsemeat has arrived. But I’m not all that enamored by eating nutria, a large rat, that is regularly publicized as a tasty dish by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. So, to each his own.
Is there a market for U.S. horsemeat? Yes, and it’s big time in a number of countries. “Carne di Cavallo,” can be bought in most butcher shops in Italy. In Sweden, horse meat is so popular that it outsells lamb and mutton combined. In every European country you will find horsemeat to be quite popular. In France, it’s the motherlode of food delicacies, they even have a horsemeat butcher’s organization called Federation de la Boucherie Hippophagique. It’s estimated that 700,000 tons of horsemeat are consumed annually worldwide. And for good reason.
As Gary Picariello writes in Yahoo News, “a typical filet of horsemeat is similar to that of beef. The meat is leaner, slightly sweeter in taste, with a flavor somewhat between that of beef and venison. Good horse meat is very tender, but it can also be slightly tougher than comparable cuts of beef. Horsemeat is higher in protein and lower in fat. The most popular cuts of horse meat come from the hindquarters: tenderloin, sirloin, filet steak, rump steak and rib. Less tender cuts are ground.”
Here’s what restaurateur Jonathan Birdsall told me about possible horse meat demand in the U.S. “I’ll bet I could name half a dozen American chefs chomping at the bit to do things to horse back fat or loins that’d show off a delicacy few of us probably never suspected Mr. Ed to be capable of. Braised on a nice bed of pasta, maybe, with a few roasted finger-length carrots.” Hmmm. Think it’s worth a try?
Like I said, we eat about anything down here in Bayou Country. I wrote a cookbook some years ago that includes such delicacies as my “world famous” squirrel stew, venison goulash, possum and chestnuts, rabbit in sour cream, and Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis’s favorite, fried coon file’.
I was traveling through Cajun country a few years ago, and stopped at a rural general store for a cup of coffee. An old fellow was on the porch cooking up a pot of something that smelled good. “Whatcha’ cookin’?” I asked. “Got me a gumbo,” he replied. I inquired what kind of gumbo, and he told me, “an owl gumbo.” When I asked him what an owl gumbo tasted like, he smiled and said, “Oh, about like a hawk gumbo.”
Seeing that our locals regularly eat alligator sauce piquante, and add to a stew or gumbo just about anything else that flies or crawls, it’s hard for many of us to get too worked up over a little horsemeat. I know that many have a special affection for the majestic horse. But all horses eventually have to be disposed of. And the same horses that would be slaughtered in the U.S. under strict guidelines are now being shipped to other countries and both treated and killed in far more cruel ways.
It’s hard to figure why Congress has such a beef with letting someone chose to eat horse meat. Isn’t it really a freedom of choice issue? Our congressmen apparently have no problem with eating Porky Pig, Donald Duck, and Bambi. So what’s the big deal about eating Trigger and Mr. Ed?
Since we have a French background here in Louisiana, could the politicians in Washington be dangerously close to inciting another revolution by telling us what we can or cannot eat? Instead of a big fuss being made over, “let us eat cake,” the new battle cry could well be, “let us eat horse.”
Peace and Justice
Billy Cannon died this week. He was a Louisiana sports legend. There are some things you just don’t forget. Where you were on 9/11, or when President John Kennedy was shot. Down here in the Bayou State, add to those special dates Halloween night 59 years ago when Billy Cannon made football history with his 87 yard run to beat Ole Miss and keep the Tigers undefeated. His story is the rise and fall, then the rise again by LSU’s all-time great sports hero.
Even those who are not Tiger fans have to admit it was one heck of a run. Cannon either sidestepped or pushed away tackler after tackler as he weaved his way towards the end zone. I wish I had a dollar for every time the magical run has been replayed on television. You can imagine the crowd’s reaction on most Saturday football nights in Tiger Stadium as once again the fans in the stadium, and the millions on national television, see Ole’ Billy tear through the Rebel opposition.
This feat by Cannon allowed the Tigers to beat Ole’ Miss 7 to 3, and made him a celebrity for life. Paul Revere had his famous ride and Billy Cannon had his remarkable run.
Cannon went on to play professional football with the Houston Oilers and the Oakland Raiders. Then he went to dental school and built a successful dental practice in Baton Rouge. Because of his popularity, Cannon’s practice flourished to an estimated $300,000 a year – quite a sum in the 1960s! But then his celebrity world came crashing down, and I played a small role in his demise.
It was 1983, and I was in my first term as Louisiana Secretary of State. I was at my office one afternoon when my secretary said there were two Treasury agents to see me, and they demanded immediate attention. They pulled out a hundred dollar bill saying it was a fake, and that it had shown up in the Secretary of State’s bank account.
I had my staff go over all the various billing and deposit records, and we were able to determine that a local attorney used the hundred-dollar bill to pay for a corporate filing. We later learned that in was the first Cannon-made counterfeit bill to be discovered in the Baton Rouge area. Others quickly appeared, and a major money printing operation was broken open a few months later. The seventh-largest counterfeiting ring in American history was no more.
For years thereafter when I made speeches around the state, I relished in telling those in attendance how I knew the bill was counterfeit. “You know down at the bottom of the 100 dollar bill where it says ‘In God We Trust?’ Well on the Cannon 100 dollar bill, it said ‘Go to Hell Ole Miss.’”
Cannon quickly confessed and helped prosecutors crack the case wide-open. At the sentencing, Cannon told federal Judge Frank J. Polozola: “… what I did was wrong, terribly wrong. I have done everything within my power to correct my mistakes.”
To thousands of LSU fans, Cannon’s confession pierced the very heart of their allegiance and adulation of LSU’s greatest sports hero. Like the little boy who pleaded with Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox on the courthouse steps in the famous “Black Sox” baseball scandal of 1919, all many LSU fans could think of was, “Say it ain’t so, Billy.”
As part of Cannon’s redemption, he took on the job of dentist up at Angola State Penitentiary, an hour’s drive north of Baton Rouge. The guards and inmates, alike, love him up there. Do fans still hold a grudging disappointment with Cannon? Well, when he was introduced a few years ago at Tiger Stadium just after being admitted to the College Football Hall of Fame, the cheering went on and on. Repeated efforts by the stadium announcer to quiet the fans down fell on deaf ears. Neither the President nor the Pope would have gotten such an avid ovation. Billy was back, and all had been forgiven.
Billy Cannon, like few others, has experienced the dramatic highs and lows of being a major sports hero in Louisiana. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that in life, there are no second acts. And Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can’t go home again. Billy Cannon proved them both wrong. And now, he will go home to meet his maker.
“People associate me with football regardless of where I go…except when their tooth hurts. They don’t care whether I played football or not. They just want the toothache to stop.”
Peace and Justice
There is a disturbing article in a recent issue of Atlantic Magazine by a prominent physician at the University of Pennsylvania. Ezekiel J. Emanuelis an oncologist, a bioethicist, and a vice provost of the University, and is the author or editor of 10 books, including Reinventing American Health Care. So he is a bright guy who knows a lot about health. His premise is that no one, in this day and age, should aspire to live longer than 75 years of age.
Now I would be skeptical of such an assertion no matter what my current age. I read the obituary section of several newspapers each day, and make note of a number of successful people who have lived a much longer lifespan. But the Atlantic article becomes more than a bit personal to me. You see, this week, I turned 78.
The premise of Dr. Emanuel’s article is that, for most people, the quality of life diminishes after 75. He writes that aging “robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society and the world. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” He concludes by assuming that those who continue to be productive long after 75 are “outliers,” and far from the norm.
But what great philosopher or scientist has concluded that one has to be productive in later years? And just what does Dr. Emanuel mean by being productive? Productivity does not particularly mean that someone who is getting a bit older and slowing down has to be creative. Isn’t the idea of retirement a pathway that allows seniors to absorb the world around them in any way they choose?
If being productive means that I’m hanging out with grandkids more, reading more, reintroducing myself to old friends who go back 60 years and beyond, taking an occasional music lesson, and even trying to be a more than passable cook, then yes, just like many of my current friends, I am being quite productive.
I gazed in the mirror this week, and told myself, look you are 78. Deal with it, and maybe even relish in all the experiences and fond memories. I think it was Lucille Ball who once said: “The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” I’d rather acknowledge that age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Well I don’t mind. And as I get older, I’m quick to quote Mark Twain who told his readers that wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
I’d like to think that I still have a long life ahead because I watch what I eat, and I workout a lot. My old college roommate is quick to remind me that the big advantage of exercising and diet is that I will die a lot healthier.
Reaching a milestone of three quarters of a century should not be that big a deal. After all, 78 is really just a number, isn’t it? Like a bunch of other numbers in your life. Dates, addresses, sums, phone numbers, passwords, and then, in the mix, is age. But I hope it is more than that.I wrote a few years back, that my life has been, by any measure, full and hard living, with ups and downs too numerous to mention.
If there is a yin and a yang, the before and the after, what has happened and what is yet to be, then maybe seventy-eight is a special way-post for me. In fact, I really believe that I could be at the top of my game, and ready for the long and relaxing ride back down.
So to the good doctor who wants to shut his life down at 75, I say that’s your call; your freedom of choice. As for me, I still have a whole lot of living to do. And not just passive living.
Dylan Thomas said it best. “Do not go gentle into the night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Peace and Justice