Welcome to this blog which is dedicated to providing a forum for a civil discourse on a variety of issues to try and make our society a truly better place for all. While the views expressed are strictly my personal opinions, please feel free to join in on these conversations accepting the premises that every attempt will be made to ensure that nothing but the truth be spoken and the truth be heard.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Success with Honor

Two weeks ago I had the occasion to discuss with friends the relative merits of various athletic programs around the nation which provided me the perfect opportunity to praise one of my long time heroes and programs, Joe Paterno and Penn State University.  My argument was how could you not laud a man who had spent almost a half century of his life as head coach at the same university compiling a winning record unmatched in college football totally free of scandal and sanctions, all while achieving a 90% graduation rate among his players.  In fact I had planned to make that remarkable graduation rate the subject of a separate blog.  However, all of that well deserved record of achievement came crashing down with the subsequent revelations this past week about alleged child sexual abuse by a member of his coaching staff over a period of several years dating back to at least the late 1990's.  If ever there was a living example of the adage that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation, but only one mistake to destroy it, this tragedy certainly qualifies.

While there probably will be many further revelations about this situation before it is over, at least the powers that be at Penn State have taken immediate and decisive action to remove all of those individuals connected with these horrendous acts, including even those who committed sins of omission by not contacting the proper authorities at the time they supposedly occurred.  No doubt everyone involved in this particular incident will eventually pay a heavy price for the misdeeds that have revealed a darker side of major college sports which Susan Page of USA Today terms a "conspiracy of silence".   In fact "Buzz" Bisinger, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Friday Night Lights and columnist for the The Daily Beast, minces no words in his opinion of this "closing of ranks around their own", going so far as to call it the "evil" within college sports and comparing it to the Mafia's code of "omerta".  You can read his column and the various responses which followed at http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/11/10/joe-paterno-and-penn-state-s-code-of-omerta-in-the-sex-abuse-scandal.html.  He also has proposed a total separation of sports from academics in which collegiate athletics would be licensed to schools that would pay a set fee for teams playing under their banner.  Under this arrangement players could even be paid for their services, something I have heard others suggest.  Frankly, I do not know how all of this would work, but if nothing else comes out of this mess, maybe there will be a re-evaluation of all major college sports and the potentially corrupting influence of the hundreds of millions of dollars that flow into these programs each year.

One thing that should be remembered in all of this is that Penn State University has a long history of following the motto of Success With Honor.  Adherence to that motto was never more proudly displayed than last night's student prayer vigil on campus for the victims of this past abuse, and continued through today's difficult, emotional and heartbreaking 17 to 14 loss against Nebraska.  The game began and ended with a huge outpouring of support from 100,000+ students and fans for their home team and coaching staff, even including a gathering at midfield of both teams and staffs before the game to pray together instead of apart.  Coming back from a 17 to 0 deficit, the Nittany Lions fought back and actually had a chance to either tie or win the game, but time simply ran out.  So, in the end, this sordid affair is not about one person or even a group of people, as they all can and will be replaced.  Rather, it is about a storied institution, its history, heritage, traditions and the manner in which they plan to move forward.  From what I observed today watching that game which ended about a hour ago, that healing process has already begun and Penn State will emerge much stronger as a result, further achieving that Success with Honor.    


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thank God for Mississippi

Growing up in Arkansas in the 40's, 50's and 60's, it was not uncommon to hear the declaration "Thank God for Mississippi", as it was always made in defense of our state for at least not being the very last in per capita wealth or education.  In that context it was not a very complimentary expression.  With the advent several years ago of casino gambling to that state in places like Tunica and Gulfport, hundreds of millions of dollars flowed into Mississippi's state coffers that brought about major infrastructure improvements, new factories, increased jobs and improvement in education, all of which pretty much made that expression fade away.

Now, all of a sudden, a new draconian legislative initiative comes along that makes one wonder what has happened to all of that progressive thinking and notable achievement.  Specifically, it is Amendment 26 - The Mississippi Personhood Amendment which, if approved, would amend Article III of their state constitution to define a person or persons to "include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof".  In short, every fertilized egg would become a person with all of the rights, privileges and protections now afforded all of the other living, breathing and functioning humans in Mississippi, including criminal  prosecution of anyone who destroys that egg whether intentional or not.  As reported on ABC News on November 4th, this definition "....goes beyond what most anti-abortion politicians and groups advocate, which is to define life at conception and limit abortion only to cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger", so it is very clear what the true intent of this initiative is and where it's headed.  In fact their own website at http://personhoodmississippi.com/amendment-26/what-it-says.aspx admits that if this amendment is approved then "...abortion will be outlawed in our state; cloning and other forms of medical cannibalism will be effectively stopped; and a challenge will be set up to Roe v Wade".  In a more drastic practical application of this ill-conceived law, if a couple engages in sex and then use a morning after pill as a form of now legal birth control, they could be prosecuted for murder.  More problematic is what happens in cases of in vitro fertilization procedures when unused eggs are destroyed after a successful pregnancy is achieved.  So much for a legal lifeline that medical science has created for otherwise childless couples.           

This issue was discussed at great length during the Diane Rehm Show this past Monday, October 31st, so go to http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-10-31/consequences-granting-legal-status-fertilized-human-egg listen to the entire discussion.  And you thought the spooks and goblins of Halloween were scary?  It would almost be funny if the implications weren't so serious.  Some of the more interesting reactions to this topic have ranged from wanting to claim such eggs as dependents for tax purposes, to wanting to know if a mother dies during childbirth could the egg be charged with manslaughter, to why there is not as much concern for the living children of Mississippi now unwanted and living in foster homes, to wanting to know if a mother who miscarries can be charged with murder, to personal injury attorneys having a field day with the accidental death of that fertilized egg.  Ever heard of unintended consequences?  Well, this initiated act is chocked full of them, not the least of which is an absolute assault on the rights of women to make their own determination concerning family planning.  Furthermore, forget about innovative medical procedures being developed in Mississippi to aide women in that planning, which is one of the reasons why almost every medical group in that state is against this measure.  I had held out some anticipation that Governor Haley Barbour might bring some reason to this ballot question, but I noticed in an AP article yesterday that he has already voted for it, so I can only hope that the good people of Mississippi will come to their senses and vote this bad boy down next Tuesday.  If not, then "Thank God for Mississippi.