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Time of My Life, Part 28: Probing a judge’s temperament

I had been on the job for about a year in 1978 when I got an assignment that got my juices flowing. I worked as a general assignment reporter for the Oregon City (Ore.) Enterprise-Courier.

Then my editor handed me a task. He had heard reports about a Clackamas County district judge that he thought needed attention.

The judge, Robert Mulvey, had been accused by lawyers who appeared in his court of lacking proper “judicial temperament,” which means that he was overly harsh on lawyers, witnesses, jurors and anyone he happened to encounter in the courthouse.

This would be my first investigative assignment for the newspaper. I began talking to defense counsel, prosecutors, courthouse staffers, sheriff’s deputies, fellow elected officials. They all said essentially the same thing: Judge Mulvey was a tough customer.

Indeed, I later found out that lawyers had filed complaints with the Oregon judicial conduct commission, which was empowered to hand down assorted forms of discipline or punishment to judges or lawyers about whom it received complaints.

I was able to talk to some of the legal eagles who had filed complaints against Mulvey.

I compiled a lot of evidence that the concerns that came across my editor’s desk had merit.

Then came the tough part: I had to speak to Judge Mulvey himself to get his side of the story. Fairness required me to do so. I did.

It was fascinating to me then — and it is now as I look back more than 40 years later — that Mulvey was so willing to talk about the accusations that his legal peers had leveled against him. He was a complete gentleman. He answered my questions directly. I don’t recall him denying any of the allegations that others had provided. He did explain himself fully.

I put the story together. It was a highly critical account of the way the judge adjudicated legal matters in the courtroom. It provided a stern look at his conduct and how poorly he treated those who stood and sat before him.

Judge Mulvey took it like a man.

Then came the clincher. Not long after the story saw print, Robert Mulvey died. Then the editor who assigned me to write the temperament story said I needed to call the judge’s wife to get a comment or two about her newly departed husband for a “news obituary” we published about the judge’s death.

My gut churned. I was nervous beyond belief. I called her. Told her my name and why I wanted to talk to her.

Mrs. Mulvey could not possibly have been nicer or more generous with her time.

It was, all in all, an amazing conclusion to an equally amazing task I had performed.

Struggling with social media

Oh, I hate struggles with technology I have difficulty understanding when it works well.

When it tanks on me, then I go ballistic.

I am having struggles at this moment with Facebook. It is a social medium I use to help distribute my blog. I also use Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and, of course, WordPress, which is the platform I use to write these musings.

Facebook is driving me just a bit south of stark-raving, bat-sh** crazy.

My Facebook news feed is incomplete. Not all of its features show up when I seek to open it. My blog posts have a “share” button and I usually send copies of each post to my personal time line and to a page called “High Plains Blogger,” which I was able to create.

Facebook isn’t allowing me to do that. I get error messages and pledges to fix the platform as soon as possible.

So far, no luck. It’s still on the fritz.

I’ll keep sending these musings to Twitter.

I also intend to hope for the best and that Facebook will get its act together.

 

Hush money because of ‘love for family’?

Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds appeared on CNN, where he was interviewed by the network’s John Berman.

They said the following to each other, as reported by Salon.com:

“This is a jarring juxtaposition, the president accused of writing payoffs to porn stars at the same time he’s conducting presidential business,” Berman said. “As you look at this, are you okay with all of this?”

“Most of us have a concern anytime you have a president who is trying to work through some very personal matters,” said Rounds. “I honestly think this president loves his family. I think it has as much to do with trying not to have public discussions about something that is, for him, a private matter that he didn’t want to have discussed with his family. I think that’s a lot of it.”

Wow, man!

So, let me get this straight. The future president allegedly had a fling with an adult film actress. Then, while he’s running for the presidency of the United States, he paid her “hush money” to keep quiet about an event that he continues to insist never took place.

Go figure.

POTUS loves his family.

According to one of POTUS’s allies in the Senate, he paid the money out of “love for his family.”

Well, alrighty. I happen to believe that Donald Trump took that tumble with Stormy Daniels.

That said, I believe a man who truly loves his family wouldn’t have cheated on his third wife — who had just given birth to the president’s fifth child — in the manner that I believe he did.

Time of My Life, Part 27: Blood-letting was key

Once upon a time — before newspapers began their long, slow slide into potential oblivion — journalists were given a chance to learn from their peers.

While working for two newspapers in Texas, in Beaumont and in Amarillo, I belonged to a professional group called the National Conference of Editorial Writers. At its peak, NCEW comprised about 600 or 700 members worldwide. 

NCEW no longer exists. It has morphed into the Association of Opinion Journalists. I am no longer a member.

However, I was a proud NCEW member who thoroughly enjoyed the professional relationships I developed over roughly two decades. Many of those relationships have become deep personal friendships.

NCEW met annually somewhere in either the United States or Canada. The meetings lasted usually about four days. Members would gather at the location, get reacquainted and then take part in several business meetings.

I was able to attend NCEW gatherings in Lexington, Ky.; Phoenix; Ottawa, Canada; Baltimore, Seattle; Providence, R.I.; and Kansas City, Mo.

The highlight of these get-togethers always was the critique session. They were structure in a couple of ways: We could submit entire opinion pages or sections of our newspapers for a full critique, or we could submit writing samples of editorials or signed columns.

NCEW’s support staff would assign us to critique groups in advance of the meetings. We would pair up with another member and submit our work to that individual for his or her critique; the individual would send his or her work to me to critique.

We called these sessions our annual “blood-letting.” They could be brutal. Journalists as a sub-species of human being generally can be tough. Indeed, I heard stories at more than one of our annual meetings about editorial writers or editors being brought to tears by overly harsh critiques by colleagues.

I am happy to report to you that I managed to avoid such harsh treatment by my peers. One of my frequent critique partners, for instance, was Rick Horowitz, a humorist/columnist/writing coach who lives in Milwaukee, Wis. Horowitz writes with impeccable precision, but the good news is that while he demanded it of those whom he critiqued, he did so with kindness.

The sessions always were helpful. I always took plenty of good advice away from them. Sure, I shed a lot of proverbial “blood” during those critique sessions. Those colleagues who also are my friends didn’t flinch when they had the chance to assess the quality of the work I presented.

In the spirit of not taking myself too seriously, though, the good news is that we remain friends to this day.

If there is any aspect of my working life that I miss, it would be those sessions that spilled a lot of “blood.”

Strongman/tyrant knew nothing? C’mon!

Kim Jong Un’s role as a tyrant by definition means he almost certainly knows what every arm of the government he runs is doing.

So, when the North Korean government takes an American college student — Otto Warmbier — into custody, hold him in bondage for more than a year and then releases him in a vegetative state to the United States, we are now expected to believe Kim Jong Un knew nothing about it.

Donald Trump, the president of the United States, said he believes Kim. He takes him “at his word.” The two men met in Hanoi this week and Kim gave Trump some assurance that he didn’t know about Warmbier’s condition upon his release.

North Korea comprises about 25 million residents. Its economy is in desperate straits. The tyrant who runs the country has built up a military force that reportedly is among the strongest in Asia. And, oh yes, has those nuclear bombs and missiles he says can deliver them to targets far away.

A tyrant who runs a country such as this knows everything his government is doing. Everything!

Who in the world does Donald Trump think he’s kidding when he says Kim doesn’t know about Otto Warmbier’s imprisonment and the conditions that produced his death shortly after returning home?

Otto’s parents, Cindy and Fred Warmbier, do not believe Kim’s denial. They hold the dictator and the government runs fully responsible for their son’s death.

The parents are in shock.

For this couple’s president, one Donald John Trump, to say he believes the word of a killer disrespects these grieving parents in an unfathomable fashion.

Disgraceful.

Connect these dots, if you can

I am having trouble connecting a few dots related to the Jussie Smollett arrest for allegedly orchestrating a hate crime committed against . . . himself!

Smollett is an actor currently performing on the TV series “Empire.” He reported in late January that two men assaulted him, tied a noose around his neck and said he was in “MAGA” country, meaning he was in a region that favored Donald Trump. Smollett, an openly gay African-American, reported the assault and the cops launched an investigation into the so-called hate crime.

Well, now we hear Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report. He paid two guys to assault him, according to the police detectives.

Oh, those dots I cannot connect?

The police say Smollett orchestrated the attack because he is dissatisfied with the salary he’s getting from Fox TV for his role on “Empire.” To which I say, simply: Huh?

Let me see how this plays out: An actor thinks he isn’t getting paid enough so he concocts a hate crime assault, thinking that as a victim of such an act he’s going to get more money?

How does that work?

This is a patently weird story.

Happy Trails, Part 141: ‘Forever’ is approaching rapidly

PRINCETON, Texas — Our intention was to make an apartment in nearby Fairview our “forever home.”

Then we decided fairly soon after moving in that apartment living isn’t our bag. So . . . we went looking for a house to purchase. What you see in the background of this picture, on the yard marked by the “Sold” sign, is what we have decided is actually our “forever home.”

It’s in Princeton, in eastern Collin County.

It is in a subdivision that is still under construction, although our street is mostly done.

Our retirement journey is about to make the turn down the stretch.

This new home of ours is modest. It’s not a sprawling spread. But for two people who are in the station of life that my wife and I now enjoy, this place is damn near perfect. 

Our retirement years are still going to include plenty of travel in our fifth wheel RV. We already have one trip mapped out this spring. Another one is coming up this summer. Beyond that, well, we are leaving our options wide open.

I suppose everyone — retired folks or working stiffs — needs something to which they can look forward.

We looked forward for a while to our retirement years. That time arrived a bit ahead of schedule, but now that it did, we have embraced it fully.

Our retirement now includes planning for one more move. It won’t be nearly as long a haul as our previous move from Beaumont to Amarillo. This one will entail just a few miles east along a well-traveled highway.

I am so looking forward to settling into this dwelling — for the duration.

Seliger vs. Patrick: The feud escalates

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has the power of appointments on his side.

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger has, well, I don’t quite know what it is precisely. However, I am going to stand with my friend — Seliger — in this seemingly escalating feud with Patrick, someone I cannot support.

Patrick yanked the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee from Seliger after the senator told a senior Patrick aide that she could kiss his backside. Patrick demanded an apology for the “lewd” comment; Seliger refused; Patrick then took the chairmanship away.

It’s getting ugly in Austin, ladies and gents.

Seliger and Patrick are far from soulmates. They belong to the same Republican Party, but they surely view the political landscape from different perspectives. Yes, Seliger campaigned for re-election in 2018 as a “conservative,” touting his NRA membership as an example of his conservative chops. Patrick, meanwhile, pushed a right-wing agenda as he ran the Senate, most notably the Bathroom Bill that sought to discriminate against transgender individuals; in fairness, I should note that Seliger voted for the Bathroom Bill along with the rest of the GOP Senate majority.

Seliger declined to sign a letter from Texas Senate Republicans endorsing Patrick, who then declined to endorse Seliger’s bid for re-election.

Now it’s come down to this. Patrick stripped the Higher Education Committee chairmanship from Seliger and removed him from that panel altogether as well as from the Education and Finance committees.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Seliger called the snub a ‘very clear warning’ that Republican better toe the line, teeing up the battle.”

See the Tribune story here.

The Patrick aide made some snarky remark that Seliger could ask for another chairmanship if he thought the Ag Committee assignment was “beneath him.”

That’s when Seliger reportedly told the aide, Sherry Silvester to, um … well, you know.

So, Sylvester poured the fuel on the fire on Patrick’s behalf. Seliger decided to respond. Patrick acted within his legislative and statutory authority as the Senate’s presiding officer.

However, in acting in this manner, Patrick — who hails from way down yonder in Houston — has denied the Texas Panhandle an experienced and seasoned voice in the on-going battle for legislative attention.

The way I see it, Patrick is simply throwing his weight around.

‘ISIS has been defeated’

Vice President Mike Pence made a startling declaration just today, only hours after terrorists detonated a bomb in Syria.

He said the Islamic State “has been defeated.” Really, Mr. Vice President?

ISIS took responsibility for the bomb blast that killed several people, including at least one American. Pence, though, doubled down on Donald Trump’s decision to bring our troops home, out of Syria, after declaring too that ISIS has been defeated.

Today’s bomb blast demonstrates quite clearly that ISIS remains a threat.

Yet the president and vice president continue to foment a blatant lie about the fate of our sworn enemy.

Astounding!

Yes, Trump could have been our Person of the Year

I am thrilled with Time’s choice of the journalists who have become the symbols of international persecution of their craft to be the magazine’s Persons of the Year.

It’s an inspired choice. They’re called “The Guardians.” I said so in an earlier post on this blog.

However, let’s talk about the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump Sr. Could the president have deserved such a designation? Yes, by all means.

Trump had bloviated something a few days earlier about how he deserved to be Time’s Person of the Year. Then again, would he want to read Time’s explanation of why it bestowed him with such an “honor”? Oh, I forgot: He doesn’t read.

Then again, consider something. Time’s criteria include those who make the biggest difference in the nation and the world, for better or worse. It has put Josef Stalin on the cover, as it did the Ayatollah Khomeini. Adolf Hitler got the nod one year. Those men all made a profound difference.

I am not equating Trump with those monstrous despots. However, his presidency has continued to spiral out of control. He has sought to redefine the parameters we set for presidential success and/or failure. The chaos that continues to swirl around him provides an astonishing display for all to see.

He has lied continuously and gratuitously. He lies when he doesn’t need to lie. He has redefined the way presidents and other public figures communicate through his use of Twitter.

He has fired at least two Cabinet members this year alone. He has burned through his second chief of staff in less than two years. He alienates himself and, therefore, this nation he leads from allies around the world. He has launched trade wars with economic powers and longtime trading partners.

Yeah, this guy has been “consequential” as president. He has made a difference in the nation and the world. Trump sought to made the case for his own significance as an international figure. He did so with typical Trumpian inarticulateness.

If only Time had seen fit to put this guy on its cover . . . and then sought to explain it to the rest of the world. It would have been a hell of a good read.