Shocker (Not Really)

Many years ago, after pro tennis player Chris Evert married Andy Mills and had settled into motherhood, she said something to the effect that her prior life had been all about her. The way she said it led me to think she had at least one prior abortion. While she’d had an otherwise solid reputation, I also figured that no one is pristine.

In 1974, when Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert had their romance, I was in first grade. I knew little to nothing about tennis–although I would become an avid player and fan in my teen years–but I remember Chris Evert becoming a household name. Jimmy Connors, who won three of the four majors that year, wasn’t bad in his own right.

They had been engaged, but broke off that engagement quite abruptly. Most had chalked that up to some combination of Connors’ playboy lifestyle–he would eventually marry a Playboy playmate–and their youth, as well as the logistics of two top-ranked tennis players being under the same roof.

Well, last year, Connors, in his autobiography, provided more insight into the breakup. During their youthful bliss, Chris Evert became pregnant, and, well, that couldn’t get in the way of her career. In Connors’ own words, he didn’t really consent, but didn’t really fight it either. At any rate, after that, the relationship ended.

Connors and Evert would go their separate ways: Evert would become one of the greatest women tennis players of all time. Her winning percentage–over 90%–is the best ever, and Martina Navratilova probably accounts for most of that 10% of her defeats. Connors would enjoy his share of success: he would win five U.S. Opens and two Wimbledons, and a mother lode of other tournaments. Their personal lives were not without issues: Connors would marry, have children, and persevere despite his own infidelities; Evert would marry, have an affair, reconcile, divorce, remarry, have kids, have a midlife crisis, divorce, remarry, divorce, then really lose it.

Evert, by her own admission, described her attitude as one of entitlement.

The media raked Connors over the coals for talking about the abortion, with at least one outlet saying, “That isn’t his story to tell.” On that front, I disagree; the child was no less his than hers. While I understand Evert’s outrage at Connors’ outing her–no one likes having a skeleton in their closet put on full display–it is fair game.

Yes, Connors is a douchebag–and to a certain extent would probably wear the label–but it’s not like he doesn’t have the prerogative to discuss the impact of her decision on his life.

And yet we must all take in the warning here. Make no mistake: your character will eventually catch up with you. It may not always become a public matter, but–at some point–you are going to come face-to-face with the reality of your decisions.

Julius “Dr. J” Erving was an outspoken Christian in addition to being one of the most celebrated athletes in his day; with a reputation as a charitable gentleman, he often received cheers from opposing fans. Trouble is, he–for lack of better words–got around. An affair with a reporter would produce a child.

Doc would take responsibility: he provided for her financially, including her education. But he tried to keep everything hush-hush.

In 1999, an up-and-coming tennis player–Alexandra Stevenson–would make a splash of her own: she reached the semifinals at the 1999 Wimbledon. Some reporters did some digging into her background, and noticed that the father listed on her birth certificate was none other than Julius Winfield Erving. This would begin the public unraveling of Doc’s otherwise sterling reputation, as his infidelities would lead to the breakup of his marriage.

I say none of this to pile onto Doc or Chrissy. Truth be told, they are probably far from the worst offenders in their respective sports.

Still, the lesson here is poignant.

Edmund Rowe (1966-2008): My Final Word


This will be my final word on the life and death of Edmund Rowe, a friend of mine from my days at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the son of legendary North Korean defector No Kum-Sok (Kenneth Rowe), who flew a MiG-15 into South Korea on September 21, 1953.

For the record, here are my bona fides:

(1) I knew Edmund for 20 years. As a fellow engineering student, we took several classes together and we were part of a small group of fellow Christians who did homework together and attended the same church.

(2) His father was a professor at Embry-Riddle at the time. I took his father for an elective class—ET401: Mechanical Design—in the Fall of 1989. In fact, I still have the textbook, which his father gave me.

(3) After graduation, I kept in touch with Edmund over the years. He graduated a year ahead of me and managed to get a job as an aeronautical engineer at Robins AFB.

(4) Over the years, I had many discussions with Edmund regarding a variety of issues, from politics to firearms (technical and tactical issues) to theology and even perspectives on the opposite sex.

(5) Like myself, Edmund married later in life. I was at his wedding on May 3, 2008. He was 42, the same age at which I would marry the following year.

Some may wonder why I’m bothering to write a post about someone who has been dead for more than four years, and who died in a less-than-honorable way: on September 21, 2008—not even five months into his marriage—he shot his wife to death, and then shot himself. This apparent murder-suicide was a dramatic, shocking end to two lives in a fashion that no one saw coming.

For my part, I must admit that, when I first learned the news, I believed the report: that Edmund had murdered his wife—Allison White Rowe—and then killed himself. Why did I believe it? Because—as a Christian with a dark view of human nature—I believe that no heinous act, given stimulus, opportunity, and inclination of the heart, is past anyone.

But here’s the problem: in the case of Edmund, the murder-suicide angle wasn’t adding up. Why? Because, usually, when someone commits that, there are one or more indicators involved: financial catastrophe, marital strife, mental illness, drug and/or alcohol issues, domestic violence issues.

None of those things were in play here. Edmund had absolutely no violence issues, domestic or otherwise. He had no anger management issues. His managed his finances well. He was not reclusive or withdrawn. He had a very stable job at Robins AFB, as did his wife. He did not drink—not even an occasional beer, wine, or mixed drink. He never used drugs; he even frowned on prescription drugs. He had no history of mental illness. There was no known marital strife. (And this is huge: if there had been, someone would have known, as his wife’s family was well-established in the Warner-Robins area. In Baptist circles, if there are marital problems, the wife will tell someone, and—before long—the matter becomes common knowledge. That was not the case here.)

His pastor indicated the possibility that Edmund may have accidentally shot his wife and then—being distraught—shot himself. When he first said that, I thought it would have been unlikely, though, as Edmund was a very experienced firearm instructor who was meticulous about safety.

Another possibility—which Edmund himself had been wary of over the years—was a third-party hit job. Why was Edmund concerned about that possibility? His father’s defection from North Korea was a very huge slap in the face to the Communist government. Edmund had indicated over the years that the NK government had a bounty on their heads. For this reason, Edmund lived a relatively private life.

After looking at the known facts—and from what I knew of Edmund over the years—I am 99.99% certain of what happened.

First, let’s look at the possibilities, and I will rate them.

Scenario 1: Edmund murders—intentionally kills—his wife, and then kills himself.

All reasonable discussion of this matter must begin with a concession that this worst-case scenario was possible. As I said, everyone—and I do mean everyone—has the capacity to commit the most hideous of evil acts.

I’ve seen enough prominent ministers go down in flames in sex scandals; I’ve seen seemingly faithful church workers get busted for child molestation. A few years ago, someone at my church was under investigation for lewd acts with children. When a friend of his protested to me of that person’s innocence, I warned him, “Have you considered the possibility that RW is guilty of those things?” (RW is now doing 20 years for child rape.)

In Edmund’s case, I would believe this scenario, except that I see no indicators—from what was known—as to what would have motivated him to do this. As I said, there were no telltale signs, not even in hindsight.

I would give this scenario a 1% possibility for that reason.

Scenario 2: Edmund and his wife were the victims of a third-party hit that was made to look like a murder-suicide.

I actually had a couple of very astute observers suggest that possibility. Both suggested that it could have been a government hit.

I rule that angle out for one reason: Edmund was not involved in the type of work that would expose him to that shady side of government. He was a corrosion control engineer who worked on keeping our aircraft airworthy. His political affiliations—which were mainstream conservative—-were no different than that of most of the community at Robins AFB. He would not have been a target for our government.

But could he have been a target of the North Koreans, given that the deaths occurred on the 55th anniversary of his father’s defection from North Korea?

At face value, while I am not into conspiracies, I would concede that there is a prima facie case here. After all, NK would have had a motive for delivering such a “Happy Defection Anniversary” present to his aging father. It is also true that NK is notorious for holding grudges for a very long time, even to the point of going after the family of someone who disgraces them. While NK normally targets defectors in South Korea, Lt. No—in his defection—was probably the biggest embarrassment to NK.

Still, I rule that out, due to one known detail: before the killings, Edmund and his wife had been secluded in their home for a couple days. (This would have been normal, as—on the days around September 21, the defection—Edmund was known to keep a low profile because of a potential NK hit.)

Had the NKs attacked Edmund in his home, Edmund would have eaten their lunch, and it would not have been a fair fight. He was an excellent marksman who had won many tactical matches. His shooting buddies included many retired Rangers and SF Operators.

For that reason, I give this scenario about 1%.

At the same time, based on what I knew of Edmund over the years, the date of the killings provides a very significant clue as to what happened, as the date is—in my estimation—not coincidental to the killings.

With that, we get Scenario #3: Edmund accidentally shoots his wife, then—in grief-fueled horror—kills himself.

Originally, I didn’t buy this scenario for the following reasons:

(1) Edmund was an outstanding firearms instructor who preached the rules of gun safety.
(2) I could not think of a way that he could have accidentally shot his wife.

On further review, however, it makes sense:

(1) The shooting happened at night.
(2) While Edmund was an excellent shooter, he did not have very good eyesight. During the day, this would not have been a big deal, but at night he would have been at a slight disadvantage.
(3) He was not a fan of using flashlights mounted to firearms, as—in his own words–”it gives the bad guys a target.”
(4) He had always been concerned about an attack from NK, or some third party contracted by them.
(5) On that night—the 55th anniversary of his father’s defection—he would have been more on edge than usual, as he now had a wife to protect in addition to himself.

He almost certainly heard some noises at night. He would have been ready, with his Glock Model 21 chambered. If he was edgy at the prospects of a hit from NK, that is one instance in which adrenaline could have overridden his otherwise good sense with firearms. If he felt he was being actively targeted by a skilled team, he would have been more concerned than usual about making sure he got a shot off before they could shoot him or his wife.

Without a flashlight, he would not have easily seen that this was his wife, not an intruder.

With his shoddy eyesight, target identification would have been more difficult than in broad daylight.

If he called out for his wife, and she didn’t answer right away, he may have given himself the “weapons free” command and pulled the trigger, a tenth of a second too soon.

Sadly, about a tenth of a second later, he realized that he landed a heart shot on the very person he wanted to protect, the beloved wife he spent 42 years trying to find. From there, he lost it…

I give that scenario about 98% plausibility.

I am quite certain that this was a friendly-fire accident that Edmund compounded with a suicide due to any number of reasons (despair, guilt, temporarily losing it, etc.).

So why am I writing this?

From a Christian standpoint, I tend to be a stickler for getting the record straight. God is a God of justice, who eventually will clear all records and assign all faults as appropriate. I believe in vindicating where vindication is due, and calling evil for what it is, no matter who commits it. That goes for me. That goes for you. That goes for Edmund.

From a Christian perspective, Edmund’s death was especially tragic. For the Christian, we hope that the way we die does justice to the work of Christ in our lives. When we are remembered on this side of eternity, we hope to be remembered for the balance of our lives, and how it counted for the Kingdom.

For Edmund, that may never be the case. Not due to his wife’s death—in all honesty her family and his larger community would have believed the accident scenario had he hung on—but due to his own suicide.

And no, I do not say this to pile onto Edmund. After all, if I had killed my wife in such an accident, it would be all I could do to hang on for dear life. If I were in his shoes, it would be easy to see how one can think that all is lost. In his scenario, he had a couple seconds to gain his bearings, and it is not hard to see how easy it would have been for him to fail. I lack no empathy here.

At the same time, his suicide—while quite understandable—was especially damaging: it left a trail of questions that will never be answered on this side of eternity. He left a large number of friends—and family (including his wife’s family)–holding the bag.

The way he ended matters did no justice to his own life, his family’s lives, or the cause of the Gospel.

The Scriptures do not speak well of suicide, and—while I do not believe that it is the unpardonable sin—it is certainly not the way a Christian ought to wish to face the King of Kings.

Still, I can say with utmost confidence to his father–Kenneth Rowe–, and his sister Bonnie, and to the family of his wife: your son, your brother, your son-in-law was not a murderer. He made a very tragic mistake, and then compounded it with a worse mistake committed without his full faculties at work.

Allison White Rowe died not from a malevolent act, but from a very tragic accident at the hands of an otherwise loving husband who was acting in good faith against a threat that he thought he was up against. I say this while conceding that none of what I am saying will bring her back.

There are many lessons to be learned here, from tactical matters to Christian living. I will not list all of those here, as that is not my desire.

My conclusion is one of qualified vindication–a very tragic accidental shooting–compounded by suicide.

From the perspective of this side of eternity: the way Edmund Rowe died is out of step with the balance of his life. While I will not excuse his suicide, I definitely understand it: he made a tragic mistake–resulting in an accidental shooting–that he decided he could not live with.

I wish for Edmund the same mercy from God that I would want for myself if the roles were reversed.

That is my final word on this matter.

Back in Business

I suffered what appeared to be a catastrophic attack, such that the domain was suspended.

Due to being tied up with work-related matters, I was not able to get things back quickly, but it appears that we are back in business.

I had to nuke my old WordPress install and do a new one. I also nuked the user table. This was a necessary evil, but still evil.

Some of you–who had user accounts–will probably need new accounts. I will create them in the coming days.

Conspiring to Put the Screws to a Father

Denninger has a succinct assessment of this situation.

I was once a character witness in an adoption case gone bad. The biological mom–JD–actually BEGGED SL and her husband, who ran a maternity home, to adopt her baby. After legally signing away her rights–and claiming not to know who the father was–she tried to contest the adoption.

During the case, one of the big things that had to be established was an assessment of the father and his rights in this case. In contradiction to her prior affidavit, JD now claimed to know who the father was.

But, during the court proceedings, she never named him and he never showed up. JD would eventually lose, SL and her husband were able to adopt JL, and JL is now a grown adult.

Sadly, however, cases like this–and the one Denninger cites–provide insight into reaons why adoptions can be difficult: (a) the birth mother can act unscrupulously, and (b) the adoptive parents can act unscrupulously. This drives up the marginal cost for adoptive parents, as it becomes paramount to ensure that the father’s rights are not being stripped away in the process.

While the legal world is catching onto the dilemma, fathers still are behind the proverbial 8-ball. Chalk this up as yet another risk of sex outside of marriage.

Who Do You Trust for Leadership? Part 1: Does ANYONE Get It?

That’s not a question to take lightly, given the recent exposure of significant failings of people long-considered as highly trustworthy. Up until ten days ago, even the most ardent Pitt fan would have conceded that Penn State coach Joe Paterno was an outstanding coach. He seemed to embody the best of Bobby Knight, only without Knight’s failings.

Unfortunately, the Jerry Sandusky scandal has exposed Paterno’s own failings. At best, he made an honest mistake that resulted in Sandusky’s continued abuses. At worst, he was knowingly complicit in a longtime coverup of child sex atrocities that were known in Penn State circles as far back as 1995. At best, he deserved termination and an unceremonious departure. At worst, he deserves a penalty larger than our justice system could ever provide.

Still, this post is not so much about Paterno or Sandusky or McQueary or any of the Penn State crew. This is about who you trust to provide leadership. Thomas L. Day, writing an op-ed for the Washington [Com]Post, suggests something I’ve long felt: you cannot look to our recent past generations for leadership in our emerging crises.

While there are small matters with his piece to which I would take some exception, those are minuscule. The larger issue here is that our past generations are overrated at best to downright morally bankrupt at worst. And when situations demand extraordinary action, the best of those generations–and even our generation–are going to come up lacking.

Let’s be honest, folks: Joe Paterno was the last person you would have expected to merely send a credible report of a former coach of his–sexually assaulting a child–up the food chain to his Athletic Director.

While his actions are not those of someone seeking to cover up an atrocity, he clearly failed to understand the gravity of the situation he was dealing with.

And that may be our biggest challenge right now. Before anyone can lead, he must understand the gravity of what he’s dealing with. That is not where leadership ends, but it must begin here.

Today, we have challenges as a nation. Those are materializing, or–more accurately–metastasizing. We have a government that is propping up an economy–inflated by multiple economic bubbles–with unsustainable levels of borrowing. Our ranks of citizens has sent a dual message to our government: we don’t like all the bailouts or deficit spending, but–DAMN IT–we want our entitlements! Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment…

My point is not about what you think of Democrats or Republicans but rather this: when this great house of cards comes crashing down–and trust me, it will–Americans will demand leadership.

But who are we going to trust? Where do we look for the answer? Does ANYONE get it?

The so-called “Greatest Generation” is more accurately-named the Overrated Generation.

The Baby Boomers are the Condom Generation: they gave us a false sense of security while we were being screwed.

Generation X–my generation–is the Deceived Generation: we rode the Baby Boom generation, expecting to gain prosperity, when in fact we were being sucked dry all along.

Generation Y is now the Bankrupt Generation: let’s face it, the end of the Ponzi is near.

Where are we going to look for our answers? Which generation can provide it?

And no, it’s not about one person trying to be a hero. Moses tried to be a hero and spent 40 years in exile before God called him to greatness. At age 80, he was a lot more humble about what lay before him. God instilled in him the moral courage to take action.

Still, after 40 years in the wilderness, Moses understood the gravity of the situation. And he finally understood the way out.

Today, do any of our “leaders” get it?

Thomas Day seems to answer in the negative. He points to Paterno as his last straw. Personally, I think Day was way too optimistic. I had lost faith long before Sanduskygate.

But where do we look? What qualities should we demand?

After all, recent history is littered with powerful, charismatic leaders who had a large degree of support from their people–and even abroad–and who all but destroyed their countries.

Random Thoughts…

(1) Today’s shootdown of the Chinook by Taliban forces–which killed 31 American Special Operators, most of them SEALs from SEAL Team 6–is the deadliest day in the history of American Special Operations. This surpasses the tragedy of Operation Redwing–which includes the deaths of 3 SEALs, in addition to the 16 SEALs and Special Operators who died in the shootdown as they attempted to rescue the SEAL team from that mission.

A very bad loss for us.

(2) The debt downgrade is no surprise. Both political parties engaged in a very dishonest game of political theater, and the rational investor community knew–FROM THE GET-GO–that the numbers were total BS.

This week’s stock market meltdown was the beginning. This downgrade is just the next step. Until America gets serious about dealing with the DEBT–not the ceiling–this situation will not get close to improvement.

Sadly, the necessary spending cuts will sink our economy. Both political parties know this; neither wants to be tagged as the party responsible for the economic collapse.

As a result, they have voted to do business as usual with the promise of fake cuts, with the hope of deferring the heavy lifting until after the 2012 elections.

We may not get that far, as any bad development in the credit market–think in terms of the European meltdown, or anything that could spike the cost of borrowing like, say, a downgrade of U.S. debt. Oh wait, that happened today…–could be enough to bring down the entire house of cards.

Today, I heard mutual fund guru Adam Bold–on his radio program–suggest that the downgrade was already priced into the market. While this is entirely possible, keep in mind that he has a vested interest in people keeping their money in the stock market. This is probably a great time to make money if you’re an active trader.

It’s also a great time to lose a lot of money in such endeavor…

(3) Tiger Woods appears to be out of it, but not by much. He had a good start at the Bridgestone Invitational–it wasn’t great, but at 2-under-par it wasn’t a disaster either–but has steadily declined in rounds 2 and 3. He now sits at 1-over-par. He’s 13 shots behind the leader. That sounds bad–and it is by his standards–but he isn’t playing that badly.

The issue is whether his troubles are mechanical or psychological, or–if both–what percentage of the two. Overcoming the mechanical issues is a matter of practice. Overcoming mental issues–in a game that is more dependent on mental acumen than most other sports–is a totally different ballgame.

CORRECTION: The 31 dead is the worst loss in the world of modern Special Operations. The Ranger casualties at Point Du Hoc–World War II–were worse.

Barkley’s Advice for Tiger

…is good advice for anyone:

One of the keys to being successful is surrounding yourself with people who are always going to be honest. You’ve got to understand, most people who are around you [when you’re famous] work for you or are just kiss asses… That’s a major problem. You need to surround yourself with good people who are not going to kiss your ass and tell you what you want to hear. Who are always going to be honest.

That’s a really, really big problem especially when you’re in the limelight. Because the people around you work for you, they want you to buy the dinners all the time, buy the drinks… you have to have a group around you that will tell you that what you’re doing is wrong and help you make good decisions.

In the corporate world, they’re called “yes-men”. Other names include “flat-backers”, “brown-nosers”, “suckups”, “ankle-biters”. They’ll tell you anything you want to hear–in some cases, do literally ANYTHING (think “Monica”)–in order to keep the gravy flowing into their pockets. Their ranks include members of both sexes.

Celebrities have it particularly rough. Especially when it comes to medical professionals. This came to light in the aftermath of Elvis Presley’s death: his physician, Dr. Nick Nicopholous, would become a classic case study in medical ethics. We also saw the shady nature of Michael Jackson’s physician, who–perhaps due to financial strains–lacked the stones to refuse treatments that clearly violated every legitimate standard of medical ethics.

But professional athletes will have no small number of hangers-on, who will be eager to show their complete loyalty. The really good ones are those who are willing to call spades accordingly. The smart athletes are those who will listen to sound advice.

Outside the sports and entertainment worlds, it’s no different. If you’re a high-flying exec, you will have lower-ranked folks and outsiders who will pedestal you like a beta male fawns over a hot blonde. They’ll hang on your every word; they’ll do anything you want; they’ll never question anything.

If you rely on such folks, they will be your undoing. If such folks dominate your inner circle, there will be no end to the trouble you will find. You will fly blindly into disaster, and your fall will be catastrophic.

Did such a dynamic cause Tiger to fall? Honestly, I doubt it. That said, if his friends were aware of his sexual excesses and never warned him of the bad outcomes, then he was slouching toward disaster.

And at this point, it would be folly to call Tiger’s demise anything but a disaster. He hasn’t won a tournament in nearly 2 years. His play has been downright shoddy. While his competition has gained ground on him, he has lost ground. In his case, this could not have come at a worse time: he is in his late 30s, he’s had multiple knee surgeries, keeping fit is becoming more–not less–difficult. Ceteris paribus, Father Time is quite the bastard, no matter how fit you strive to be.

While others wish him the worst, I can’t say that I do. The guy has suffered plenty. He’s lost his wife, he has less contact with his children than before, and he now has suffered major setbacks in his quest to become the all-time leader in major championships. Where experts once predicted Tiger would shatter Nicklaus’ record, it is now looking like the Golden Bear might remain on top of that mountain. Where he was once an overwhelming fan favorite, he now receives no small number of boos in a sport where such fan conduct is considered verboten.

Would better accountability have kept all of this from happening? Maybe…maybe not.

One thing’s for sure, though: no matter your potential and talent, the choices you make early in your career will follow you every step up the ladder. They can enhance–or limit–your success. They can lead to your demise (think Ken Lay of Enron fame, or baseball star Darryl Strawberry, or even Mike Tyson) or they can put a black mark on your successes after the fact (Julius Erving and Michael Jordan in best-case scenarios, or Lenny Dykestra in the worst case) or they can hinder your otherwise unlimited potential. This is why Pete Rose may never see his plaque in Cooperstown, and why Tiger Woods may not overtake Nicklaus.

Celebrities aren’t gods, and the locker room is anything but a monastery. This goes for the most ostensible Christians–like Evander Holyfield, who sired no small number of children out of wedlock–and for those who made no claims to such religious orientation (Wilt Chamberlain).

That said, surrounding yourself with ass-kissers is a sure-fire way to exacerbate such weaknesses.

Self-Esteem Versus Self-Respect

In the world of gender relations, women usually–if not always–test the men in their lives in various ways. In the world of “Game”, this is called the “shit test”.

An example of this would be when you’re talking to a gal in whom you may be interested, and she says, “I’ll bet you already have a girlfriend.”

An example of a bad answer: “No…still looking.” (It’s a bad answer because–while it may be factually correct, it misses completely the whole purpose of the test.)

An example of a good answer: “Yep…several. Which number do you want to be?” The second answer is good because it (1) communicates that you know you are being “tested”, and (2) you are showing–with light humor–that you aren’t going to be pushed around by her.

OTOH, sometimes the “test” can come from unexpected sources. I never thought in terms of one’s mother as being a potential “tester” for the men, but this piece by RM makes lots of sense on so many fronts.

Personally, I’m thinking RM has stumbled onto some gold here. And the implications are much deeper than “Game”. What do you guys think?