Thursday, September 27, 2007


Many of us have well-defined perspectives about New Orleans and the heroics of many of her citizenry who were motivated by the good of the many during Hurricane Katrina, witness many of her health care workers and loyal police officers in a department which had been rocked by successive scandals who remained on duty during the calamity. Likewise, Hurricane Katrina exposed her vulnerabilities – especially her infrastructure and the attitude of entitlement that characterized many of her citizenry.

This writer recently received a forwarded letter written by a long-time resident of New Orleans that puts another face on this disaster.

“It’s easy to take supermarkets for granted. Prior to Katrina, the closest supermarket, ie, large grocery store was Winn-Dixie, 12 miles away. It was a dirty store, food often not fresh, fish smelling bad, with a particular clientele--a clientele that would drive you into a rage, blood boiling, as they stood at the checkout and demanded coupons they did not bother to clip themselves, proclaimed that they did not have enough money, decided to change some item for some other item and thereby shut down the cash register as the cashier walked away to make the exchange, or just acted out the total bitches they were as they verbally abused the employees and everyone else in the vicinity.

It was, I think, a New Orleans thing, revenge on the world for their plight, which included the burden of stupidity and poverty exacerbated by the stupidity, and the welfare state attitude, and revenge on any Whites who happened to be involved. I would hope that few people know what I am talking about.

Homes throughout many square miles of New Orleans were flooded. Everything in the vicinity of this store got four to six feet of floodwaters. Some a bit further away got water into the attics. Everyone had to go somewhere else, and for many, there wasn’t much to come back to, no resources to fix it, no way to sell it, no way to live in it, no utilities, no stores, no transportation. Closest supermarket even as of yesterday was 18 miles away.

There have been all sorts of conspiracy theories about large scale machinations by the power elite of this area to create bureaucratic institutions that would exclude certain types of people from returning. The mayor, now world famous for his importunate comments, said he was going to change New Orleans into a “Chocolate City”. That went round the world in 24 hours. The Chocolate folks, the Black ministry foremost among the outspoken, were the theorists proclaiming that the White man was going to keep the Blacks from returning. Obviously competing and contradictory accusations, a self-defeating situation overall, no matter which lie a person wanted to support.

Then, some public figures with more smarts and common sense than the conspiracy theorists pointed out that the power elite of this area do not have the organizational skills or acumen to accomplish such a thing even if they wanted to, and that is a fact, we might say a proven fact, seeing how they handle more simple things, such as a building permit or a parking meter.

Well, what got me onto this is what a wonderful day this has turned out to become, wonderful in a way that the unflooded would not understand.

That same Winn-Dixie was reinvented, reorganized, rebuilt, restocked, cleaned, now brimming with upbeat people, wonderful looking food, fresh fruits and vegetables, well designed, well serviced, up to California standards, and now back to 12 miles from home. The parking lot was jammed. People were jubilant, smiling, in celebration.

And, this is about a supermarket. It speaks to the deprivation that has been going on here for a long time. And another peculiar thing, there were Whites and Blacks in abundance, but not a single soul causing any problem whatsoever. Something has definitely changed…”


Ned Buxton

Sunday, September 9, 2007


This commentary is an imperfect attempt to express my sorrow at Pavarotti’s passing, gratitude at his incredible gift of music to humanity and perhaps response to another cathartic moment. At any rate, my emotions tell me I have to do this, for me.

Ever since Luciano Pavarotti passed on last Thursday, I’ve found myself humming, whistling and singing Nessun Dorma, that wonderful aria from the final act of Puccini’s opera Turandot and what evolved into Pavarotti’s signature song. Appropriately, Nessun Dorma was the song Pavarotti sang in his final performance, the finale of the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics in his home country. No one interpreted it better than Luciano.

I also especially remember that incredible televised 1988 concert in Montreal at the Notre Dame Cathedral where in this ethereal setting Luciano sang Christmas carols with Les Petits Chanteur du Mont-Royal and the Disciples de Massenet. Of special note was that great Gesu Bambino duet with the young soprano chorister that brought back many memories for me. Those of you that have the VHS tape of the concert consider yourselves very lucky! Pavarotti was wonderful in that venue.

In fact, Pavarotti was for me, and a great many more, probably the greatest tenor of all time whether they be lyric, spinto, dramatic or Wagnerian tenors. I’m not diminishing the accomplishments of all the other great tenors that include but are not limited to The Great Caruso, Di Stefano, Lanza, Corelli, Del Monaco, Giacomini, Wunderlich, Domingo, Carreras and no, while I enjoy him immensely, not Bocelli. In my opinion Mario del Monaco or Fritz Wunderlich probably most closely approached Pavarotti with their ringing voices though they failed like the others to manifest the subtlety, richness or range of Pavarotti and his interpretations. In deference to Wunderlich, he died young in a pre-Nazi Germany.

It’s obvious that I’m not a music scholar or academic. I just know what I like, period. For me, these other great artists failed with more exaggerated, fleshy, labored vibratos; blurred intonations/diction and an emotional detachment that relegated them all to a grand second place. Many failed to properly enunciate, slurring like a novice ventriloquist stumbling over his “b's” and “d's”. Having said that, each have had their day in the sun with almost flawless performances that approached perfection.

Luciano was, however, the absolute best in his prime. Without getting drawn into the wonderful descriptive superlatives I am not qualified to employ, I can state unequivocally that, for me, Luciano Pavarotti most eloquently interpreted the music of the M
asters. His honey voice, range, emotion, timing, diction, projection, richness, power and charisma comprise the total interpretation I continue to embrace.

Who couldn’t get drawn into Pavarotti’s exuberant interpretation of Nessun Dorma that left him breathless, eyes high, mouth agape and totally drained of emotion. He left it all on the table and one couldn’t help but to admire his commitment though some of that emotion might have been melodrama for the masses. No mind.

Luciano was the common man who lived life to it fullest. He tried many occupations including elementary school teacher, insurance salesman and others and failing those and his passion, football (soccer to us Americans), he engaged an up and down singing career that saw him ultimately succeed under the tutelage and guidance of that classic dramatic coloratura soprano Joan Sutherland. He did return to the football pitch but to sing in hugely popular concerts prior to the World Cup in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002. Yes, he also loved tennis.

Pavarotti’s personality literally exploded on every stage he occupied bringing music and rescuing opera for the masses, enriching our lives. His flirtatious and sometimes stubborn attitude got him in trouble but an adoring public (He fiercely reciprocated those feelings) forgave these foibles as the eccentricities of genius and greatness. They adored him.

He endeared himself to people around the world including this Volunteer, by raising money for many charities especially including the Red Cross for which he received the International Red Cross Award for Services to Humanity. He supported the United Nations raising money on behalf of refugees worldwide and Princess Diana’s charity and efforts to eliminate the use of land mines.

I shed a tear or two when I learned that Luciano passed but find solace that in our modern age we are blessed with a huge library of his performances. We will miss his fresh and beaming personality and that mouthful of teeth that never tried to hide a smile.

Thousands of admirers said their final good byes to their native son by filling the piazza outside the Romanesque cathedral in Modena, Italy and watching the funeral service on the big screen. The solemn service included a more mature Andrea Bocelli singing Ave Verum as a tribute to his great Friend, mentor and teacher. A final, tearful standing ovation erupted from the thousands inside and out of the cathedral following the recording of Pavarotti singing a duet of Panis Angelicus. There would be no encore as Luciano had sung that duet with his Father at this same cathedral in 1978. As a postscript, a newer more recent video of the Father-Son Pavarotti duo graphically demonstrates the enduring love of a son for his father who by that time was diminished with age.

The crowd in the piazza erupted in enthusiastic applause when Pavarotti's casket was carried outside by his pallbearers. Thousands more who filled the route to the Montale Rangone Cemetery cried and applauded respectfully as the black hearse bearing Pavarotti’s body slowly passed by.

As the famed Italian film and opera director Franco Zeffirelli stated the other day, "There were tenors, and then there was Pavarotti."

Thanks, Luciano, Aye

Ned Buxton
Choirboy – Soprano to Baritone
St. Mark’s, St. Dunstan’s & Lenox School

Thursday, September 6, 2007


I’ve been close-mouthed about the Michael Vick case until now, all in the shadow of the tragic Duke Lacrosse Rape Case where it seemed that most of Durham, NC inappropriately prejudged the three Duke students who were eventually exonerated, rating even a “totally innocent” finding from the Attorney General of the State of North Carolina. All that caution and the presumption of innocence is now gone with Vick’s guilty plea and the prospects that he could be spending up to the next five years in Federal prison. Of course, that doesn’t take into account that a Surry County, Virginia Grand Jury will be considering additional charges against Vick on September 25. Vick has been in trouble before,[1] but nothing like this.

The same phenomenon that plagued the three Duke lacrosse players seems to be omnipresent on the back side of the Vick guilty plea, and it seems on the surface to be a Black vs. White perspective.

This writer was floored on September fourth along with a seemingly horrified Joy Behar at Whoopi Goldberg’s statement about Michael Vick on her debut with ABC’s “The View”. The transcript of the show appeared on the website of the Atlanta ABC affiliate, WSB-TV, an icon of credible, objective reporting.

The transcript related (as I do remember hearing it) that Whoopi stated, "You know from his background this is not an unusual thing for where he comes from," said Goldberg referring to the South. "There are certain things that are indicative to certain parts of our country." Co-host Joy Behar seemed shocked at Goldberg's statements. "How about dog torture and dog murdering?" Behar asked. "Unfortunately it's part of the thing," Goldberg replied. "You're a dog lover. For a lot of people dogs are sport," she added. Behar continued to shake her head in disgust.”

“She said if the case had involved somebody from New York City her feelings would have been different. Goldberg pointed out that Vick was raised in the South. "This is part of his cultural upbringing," said Goldberg.”

So, it’s a Southern thang you say? The Animal Legal & Historical Center reports that, “The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are at least 40,000 dogfighters in America, though that number seems to underestimate the epidemic of street fighting in urban areas. In 2003, the city of Chicago alone recorded and responded to 1093 animal fighting complaints. Virtually all children in high crime urban areas are exposed to dog fighting in their own neighborhoods while American hip/hop culture glorifies the blood sport. Rap singers and urban clothing and toy manufacturers promote dog fighting through their products and advertisements.”

That was quite an indictment for all of us Crackers born in the South that haven’t “condoned /appreciated” dog fighting. By the way, I like my corn likker a little on the peaty side…

So, given Whoopi’s dog fighting attribution to The South and declaration that her attitude would have been different had Vick been a New Yorker, we have a startling revelation for her. James “Jay” Fricchione, the former publisher of Sporting Dog Journal, a magazine serving the interests of the dog fighting industry and subscribed to by thousands of individuals suspected or convicted of dog fighting, some of whom received the publication at their prison addresses, is from Westtown, NY about fifty miles northwest of New York City.

Fricchione was arrested in April of 2003 and later convicted in April 2004 of numerous felonies and misdemeanors for dog fighting-related crimes, including tampering with evidence when he attempted to remove two of his dogs from the Warwick Valley, NY Humane Society's shelter. At the time of Fricchione's arrest, Eric Sakach, blood sports expert for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), described the charges against Fricchione as comprising "easily…the most significant case ever prosecuted with regard to the crime of dog fighting."

The costs to the local Warwick Valley Humane Society were so substantial that in 2005 Judge Nicholas DeRosa ordered convicted dogfighter James Fricchione to pay more than $130,000 in restitution for the cost of caring for dogs seized from Fricchione by the New York State Police in 2003. The order was issued after Lawyers for The Humane Society of the United States; the Animal Protection Foundation of Schenectady, NY and a broad coalition of animal shelters petitioned the court for full restitution. Enough of Whoopi’s holier than the South attitude! Our thanks to the HSUS for this information.

Not surprisingly, Goldberg immediately drew strong and immediate censure from Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, who disputed that dog fighting was a cultural fixture of the South or any other region. Reality reflects that while there are responsible elements in the Hip Hop Community, it certainly appears that dog fighting is still a major component of the macho American Hip Hop culture.

So, after that flawed entrance it would seem that Rosie O’Donnell might be a preferable foil to the other View co-hosts? Not really! The newspapers and all the media and blogs from here to Timbuktu took Goldberg to task though she took the opportunity to apologize the next day and clarified her statement as one who was trying to understand why Vick did what he did.

That could be possible, but there was a definite spin to the story one day later. Goldberg even stated that folks never even knew her exact words as no one has a transcript of the show. She apparently wasn’t aware of WSB’s revelation on their website. At any rate, it surely reflects the sensitivity that our society has to such outrageous behaviors and especially those that carry the extra burden of setting an example for our kids.

Couple Whoopi’s seeming gaff with recent supportive comments by Jamie Foxx, Stephon Marbury, Preacher (I talk with God) Deion Sanders and Clinton Portis coupled with encouragement by the NAACP and the SCLC (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is spinning in his tomb) and you have an all Black consortium indicting themselves and the whole African-American community. Well, that was my first take until I started to uncover the real feeling of disgust that pervades most of the American Community – Black, White, Red, Yellow and Brown.

I was impressed with the very right-on assessment by Basketbawful on his blog, of Stephon Marbury’s incredibly na├»ve, hip sparking statements that equated deer hunting with dog fighting. Following a huge public outcry Marbury was quickly rescued by the New York Knicks organization who crafted a follow-up statement for him as follows. "What Michael Vick did was wrong, and he has admitted his guilt. He should be punished. However, he should be given a second chance, as others have received for more serious crimes."

Basketbawful at offers some great perspectives, dissecting and coming to grips with the real issues of right and wrong. I encourage everybody to read his comments.

These insightful remarks were closely followed by Byron Hurt’s great article, “Vick-tim Of Hypocrisy?: A Former Quarterback Weighs In On The Michael Vick Case” which appeared on his website Hurt, by the way is a former Northeastern University quarterback and director of the award-winning documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. This article and his website represent a responsible voice of reason and sanity in an insane world. Well done, Byron.

However, just when you think that the voice of reason has prevailed, you see remarks such as those expressed by
monstabuxx on on August 28, 2007. You see them here as they were written in all caps, literally screaming his vitriol for all to hear.


This guy received lots of serious support on this thread though he also honestly caught a lot of flack for those comments. Hard to believe someone could/would write this though a tour of might uncover even harsher sentiments. Have your sedatives ready.

This case has brought out many of the fruit loops in America to include those that question the charges ever being brought since, “Heeeee’s soooo hot!” to some vegetarians one of whom commented, “Do you people realize how you get your hamburgers and your bacon strips? It's not much better than what was going on with Vick (in some cases, it's much worse). Can someone please tell me why it's deplorable for Vick to torture and kill animals for sport but fine and dandy for everyone else to torture and kill animals for cuisine?” No further comment necessary here……… Sometimes I think we should reconsider free speech (only kidding).

The prevailing opinion of many in the Black Community seems to raise up the recent admittedly ludicrous sentences that Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan served for serious crimes as a counter to Vick’s thuggery. The last time I looked that same equal opportunity courtesy was recently extended to Nicole Richie who says of her heritage that she is a "mix of everything", and identifies herself as African-American.

I guess that while we are talking about hospitality being extended to Black Folk, we would have to include OJ Simpson who foully murdered two people and got away with the criminal part of it. As we say, Justice is blind.

So, there I go falling to the same emotional abyss employed by Monstabuxx.

I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m going to hold to the facts of the case to wit that Vick committed the acts, initially denied them (plead not guilty) to the judiciary & law enforcement, the NFL Commissioner, the Atlanta Falcons and the whole world. Vick only plead guilty after his three co-defendants plead guilty and along with four witnesses, agreed to cooperate with the prosecution. His buddies rolled over on him, big time. Vick plead guilty to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal-fighting venture.
This apparently doesn’t include the most heinous cruelty to animals where Vick admitted to participating in the execution of dogs that were sent to the happy hunting ground for not being vicious enough or losing a match. The dogs were killed by electrocution, drowning, beating, hanging and other brutal means. Gads!

The National Football League's Personal Conduct Policy allows that "It is not enough to simply avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful. Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

It is the right of any organization to determine what appropriate behaviors are (and are not) and designate them as a bona fide requirement for initial and continued employment. Usually, failure to abide by these standards is punishable by discipline up to and including termination. The NFL is merely enforcing their own well-known and highly publicized rules of conduct. Vick’s involvement in a gambling operation would appear sufficient by itself to engage their Personal Conduct Policy and breach his contract.

Michael Vick’s life is over as he knew it especially if the Falcons are able to successfully recover monies already paid to Vick. Rawlings and Nike have terminated their contracts with Vick while Reebok and the NFL suspended production and sales of all Vick-related products. Apparently both are giving refunds for jerseys already purchased and returned. Upper Deck and Donruss, the two giant trading card companies, who are apparently putting decency, compassion & morality above profit, are no longer producing a Vick card and have decided to pull all current card inventories at great influence to their bottom lines. Upper Deck also pulled a variety of Vick memorabilia and autographs from its website that includes autographed jerseys, footballs and helmets. In addition, Dick's Sporting Goods and Sports Authority stores have also stopped selling Vick-related goods. Where-o-where did my income streams go…?! As of this writing Vick’s website sports a last entry of January 18, 2007 on his home page and features a thoughtful tribute to those killed in the Virginia Tech Massacre. Safe.

Dog chewed and slobbered Vick cards are appearing on e-bay with one recently fetching $7,400. I can just see a manic Vick madly chewing at his own cards and then selling them on the internet to buy food for his family. It may come down to that. The Atlanta Humane Society is using donated Vick jerseys as towels and bedding for their canine populations. Bottom line: Vick is no longer marketable, period. I guess that Vick could go into rehab or (with apologies) become a preacher/evangelist per his revelation, “Through this situation I've found Jesus."?

I can’t do any better than basketbawful in summarizing this whole tragedy.

“I understand that life isn't black and white. There are plenty of shades of grey in plenty of different circumstances. But there are also lines that, once they're crossed, you don't get to just hop back over without consequences. And I'm not just talking about lost salary and jail time. I'm talking about the staining of one's character. Which is not to say that Vick can't turn things around and become a decent human being again. He can experience genuine remorse and take responsibility for what he's done. He can atone for his misdeeds. Nothing is static, and he has the rest of his life to improve the quality of his character. But right now, are his actions in any way justified? Is he a good person? No.”

Maybe Michael Vick’s real character was demonstrated when after a 31-13 drubbing by the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome last November he gave the Atlanta Falcon’s Fans a middle-finger salute as he left the field of Honor. Hmmmm….


Ned Buxton
Richardson, Texas

[1] In April 2003 Sonya Elliot, a 26-year-old health-care worker from Georgia, was allegedly infected with the Herpes virus after an unprotected encounter with Vick at the athlete's Duluth, Georgia home. She confronted Vick after testing positive whereupon it was alleged that Vick admitted that he had the virus. It was also alleged that Vick used the name "Ron Mexico" when he was being tested / treated for the virus. Vick settled out of court with Elliot in April of 2005. Since then no further details have been disclosed except that Atlanta Falcon football jerseys sporting the number seven (Vick’s number) and the name Ron Mexico have become popular cult accoutrement, Aye. For an example see GEBIII

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


While Mike Nifong surely did it his, “own way” (synonym for prosecutorial misconduct), he apparently had expectations of a greater pension given his reelection to Durham DA. Nifong reaped the whirlwind and was found guilty for his deceitful and criminal contempt actions. As Associated Press writer Aaron Beard put it, “Nifong charged forward with a strident determination that the guilty would end up in jail. Ultimately, the since-disgraced former prosecutor only succeeded at putting himself behind bars.”

We are nearing the end of this whole debacle with Nifong’s unprecedented conviction for lying to a judge during his prosecution of the falsely accused Duke lacrosse players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans. We can now honestly insert the label convicted criminal into Nifong’s portfolio. That seems to fit nicely with former district attorney, disbarred lawyer and disgraced, humiliated man.

Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III had the option of sentencing Nifong to as many as thirty days in the pokey along with a substantial fine but opted for a more symbolic one day in jail. I’m OK with that for it still carries the stigma of a convicted criminal who served time.

Even now I can’t get too sympathetic for Nifong who, while now admitting that his DNA report was incomplete, trips the light fantastic around the issue by stating further, "I now understand that some things that I thought were in the report were in fact not in the report, so the statements were not factually true to the extent that I said all the information had been provided." Wow, only from a lawyer! Nifong still continues to dance around the core issue of his dishonest, selfish actions, apparently hoping that in some future life his reputation will be restored.

Well, it ain’t gonna happen with special thanks to several in the media and especially the AP for always taking the high road. They apparently didn’t fall prey to sensationalism, looking to evolve the story in their medium. We can also give great thanks to the stalwart authors of Until Proven Innocent, Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson who hit the nail on the head with their thorough, candid, honest assessment of this miscarriage of justice.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to K. C. Johnson, professor of History at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center who with his Durham in Wonderland blog took on Nifong, the Group of 88 and the whole issue of “academic McCarthyism.” This writer strongly recommends some time over on You will be able to honestly capture the whole chronology of this affair.

As an Ole Miss graduate I was particularly pleased and proud with the review of the book by John Grisham who opined, “Brutally honest, unflinching, exhaustively researched, and compulsively readable, Until Proven Innocent excoriates those who led the stampede—the prosecutor, the cops, the media—but it also exposes the cowardice of Duke’s administration and faculty. Until Proven Innocent smothers any lingering doubts that in this country the presumption of innocence is dead, dead, dead.” Hotty Toddy, John.

The above photo of Nifong (courtesy of AP) with his hand on the Bible agreeing to “Tell the truth, the whole truth, so help me God” is repulsive to this writer and surely seems at odds with his reality and the ultimate truth. Well, that’s why he went to jail.

With Nifong put to bed (will there be civil suits against him?) and with Duke University settling with our stalwart three, that leaves the City of Durham and the enabling Group of 88. The City of Durham may be behind the eight ball and appears to have substantial liability. The Group of 88 whose disgraceful actions substantially helped to fan the flames of racism, bigotry and political correctness tarnished the reputation of a great university.

Of course those crazed, misdirected Duke University students who bought into Nifong and the Group of 88 all characterized by student demonstrations (You Tube – Potbangers) and many posting/carrying wanted posters of Duke Lacrosse players and banners calling for their castration will have to deal with the unexpected truth and reality in their own little spheres. This writer finds solace that some of these students correctly predicted that there would be dire consequences for their actions! May they live with those consequences for the rest of their lives though many will probably excuse/opt out their behaviors as “exercises in academic freedom”. Worse yet, they won’t give a damn and go on to their next “crusade”. We hear that many haven’t faced the truth and in a case of ultimate intellectual and academic dishonesty, now reflect that the lacrosse players would have done it if they could?

The Duke students are well outflanked by the academic dishonesty of some North Carolina Central University students who still believe that Crystal Gail Mangum was “trampled by the justice system”. Many have little faith in the American Justice system with peer and class pressure appearing to be a factor here. After all justice is blind and this is just payback for three centuries of social injustice. By the way, can you say, “OJ” fast, three times?

Moving right along, there has been some talk that the other members of the Duke Lacrosse Team may be contemplating a suit against Duke University. Go for it

So, this won’t be over until all these folks get their just desserts. Don’t let the flame of righteous indignation be extinguished. Maintain the pressure and we’ll try and keep you informed. Nifong will be serving his jail time on September 7 (coincidentally my brother’s birthday) and I will be celebrating all day…


Ned Buxton
An Old Midfielder