Friday, May 29, 2009

Mr. T Gets Jury Duty

Last week, Mr. T got called for jury duty. He did not get selected, but managed to pull it off quite well. He commented, "If you're innocent, I'm your best friend. If you're guilty...I pity da fool!"

I wonder how he would have handled deliberations. Usually he doan have much time fo jibba jabba.

President Obama's Shrewd Trade

The story goes that, upon returning from one of his trips abroad, President Obama climbs onto the helicopter Marine One, with a little piglet under each arm. "What do you have there, Mr. President?" asks the pilot.

"These are Chinese potbellied pigs," President Obama replies. "I got one for Hillary Clinton, and another one for Nancy Pelosi"

To which the Marine pilot replies, "Shrew trade, Mr. President."

Liberals and Light Bulbs

Question: how many liberals does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Even if you gave them a century and a half, all the liberals in the world could never change a single light bulb. Because if *we* change *our* light bulbs, the Russians/Chinese/North Koreans/whoever will just change *their* light bulbs and who knows *where* it will end?

I hear the UN Security Council was called into emergency session. Oh whoa! Back in 1967, at the age of 11, I watched the UN Security Council debates in the aftermath of the Six Day War, and rapidly came to the conclusion that the UN was a waste of time. Nothing has happened the the last 42 years to change my mind.

I disagree with Dick Morris on one point- that there is no military option. Not necessarily so, but I think it is extremely unlikely Obama has the cojones to ask Congress for authorization for use of force against North Korea. This is a very bad situation, which is almost certain to get dramatically worse. Right now, North Korea has a handful of nukes and very limited means to deliver them. The US has several thousand nukes and all kinds of means to deliver them. I'd say to North Korea, disarm completely, or else launch a preemptive strike. I realize some will call me alarmist. Well, I'd say in the next ten years it's better than 50/50 that we'll lose an American city to a smuggled nuke.


P.S. Plenty of blame to share between Clinton and Bush 43. Of course a great many people would rather fix the blame than fix the problem.

Half a Head of Lettuce

Since I'm from Columbus, Ohio, I get to tell this one:

Once upon a time, there was a young man who had a gift for talking his way into trouble, and as well as a gift for talking his way back *out* of trouble. He was working a grocery store when a customer asked hat was the price for half a head of lettuce. He said, "I'll go ask the manager. Unnoticed, the customer followed him.

The young fellow said to the manager, "Some idiot wants to buy half a head of lettuce" Then, realizing that the customer had followed him, added, "And this outstanding gentleman wants to buy the *other* half!"

A little later, the manager took him aside and told "I was impressed with the way you handled that. Our chain is opening up a new store- would you like to be a manager"

"That depends- where is it?"

"Columbus, Ohio."

"COLUMBUS, OHIO?!?! Nothing comes out of Columbus, Ohio, except hookers and football players!"

Dead Silence. Finally, the manager said, "Kid, let me tell you something: my mother is from Columbus, Ohio, my wife is from Columbus, Ohio, and my daughter is from Columbus, Ohio. Any questions?"

"Great! What positions do they play?"

My First Day of Law School

I was sitting in the front row of room 101 of the Notre Dame law school, at 8am on the last Monday of August, 1984, when Professor G. Robert Blakey walked in, and started lecturing about the case of Regina v. Dudley and Stevens. Professor Blakey is the most brilliant legal scholar who has ever walked the face of the Earth. Don't take my word for it- just *ask* him.

(G. Bob is an arrogant man, with two important redeeming qualities- 1. he will freely admit that he is arrogant, and 2. he is very much *entitled* to be arrogant. Ever hear of someone being charged with "rackeeting"? That is a reference to 42 US Code 1961, the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO. Professor Blakey was the principal draftsman of that legislation)

Very early in the class, he told us, "There are two things I want you to remember if you ever practice criminal law: 1. get your fee up front, and 2. if it becomes clear that somebody is going to go to jail, make sure that it is your client and not you."

Good advice- which I have heeded for the past 25 years. Thank you, G. Bob.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

David Van Buskirk

David van Buskirk, the eldest of ten children, served as an officer in F company, 27th Indiana Infantry regiment during the Civil War. After he was captured at the battle of Winchester in May, 1862, some Confederates dubbed him "the World's Biggest Yankee"- which was a fair description. In a day when President Lincoln was considered a giant at 6'4", van Buskirk was 6' 10 1/2" and weighted well in excess of 300 pounds. An enterprizing Confederate businessman worked out a deal with the prison camp commander- and charged people admission to see him. That must have been rough on van Buskirk's pride- but he did get extra rations in the deal, so he might have been the only POW of the war who *gained* weight during his time as a POW. After being exchanged, van Buskirk did serve creditably as a captain- although he was *awfully* rough on his horses- until he resigned his commission due to ill health in 1864. (He managed to live til just short of his 60th birthday in 1886).

Captain van Buskirk did manage to keep a sense of humor, even in difficult times. While a POW, van Buskirk got a visit from Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who asked about his family. Van Buskirk said, "When we shipped out, my six sisters all came to see me. They all bent down, and kissed me on the top of my head."

Hmmmm....I can't be certain, but I very much suspect that that is a tall tale.

Barton W. Mitchell

Okay, so what are the odds that another soldier in Captain van Buskirk's outfit- F company of the 27th Indiana Infantry Regiment- would make a MAJOR contribution to the Union victory- and the course of American history? Ah, here comes the story of one of America's great unsung heroes: Corporal Barton W. Mitchell. (No relation- my ancestors wore butternut gray.) Corporal Barton W. Mitchell was quite old to be a soldier- he was at least 45 years old when he enlisted in September, 1861, leaving a wife and four children at home. On Septeber 13, 1862, (coincidentally exactly one year and one day after he enlisted) while his unit was taking a break from marching near Fredrick, Maryland, he noticed a package in the grass by the road. Upon examining it, he discovered three cigars wrapped in a document- which happened to be a copy of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Special Order 191, which laid out Lee's plans to invade Maryland. Within the hour, those plans were in the hands of General George McClellan, Commander of the Army of the Potomac, who declared, "Now I will beat Lee or go home."

Unfortunately for the the Union cause, McClellan had an amazing capacity for passing up golden opportunities; he did bring Lee's army to battle on September 17, 1862, at Sharpsburg/Antietam in the bloodiest single day of American history. The two armies suffered 23,000 casualties in a tactical draw and a strategic Union victory- since it forced Lee to abandon his invasion of Maryland. It also resulted in President Lincoln finally relieving General McClellan (with General Ambrose Burnside- another spectacular incompetent). Even more importantly, several months earlier, Lincoln had decided to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, but had been counseled not to issue it until the Union Army won a victory- lest the measure be seen as an act of desperation. Antietam gave Lincoln the victory he needed. September 22nd, 1862, Lincoln issued the Proclamation. Corporal Mitchell never got any recognition during his lifetime- he was severely wounded in the leg at Antietam, and was discharged due to his wound in 1864. In the days before antibiotics, such wounds tended to be lifelong afflictions. Apparently it was a factor in Mitchell's death in 1868, when he was only 52. (His wife did manage to get a pension- in 1890) Until WWII, the story of America's treatment of its veterans has not been a happy one.

Ben Graham - Very Smart Australian

It is Super Bowl Sunday here in America, and I just learned that the punter for the St. Louis Cardinals is an Australian fellow named Ben Graham. He may or may not be a rocket scientist, but he does have the good sense to be a kicking specialist, which means that win or lose, he is going to get to cash a very large check, and he is almost certainly the guy on his team who is *least* likely to get carried off the field on a stretcher. So, in my humble opinion, Mr. Graham is one very smart Aussie.

Leonard, My TV Alter Ego

When I read the Slate article on the TV show, "The Big Bang Theory" my jaw dropped. Yes, America, America now has a TV sitcom with main characters who *clearly* have Asperger's Syndrome. When I viewed the clip at I *honestly* did not know whether to laugh or cry. I do *not* possess Leonard's expertise in higher mathematics, but I am both fascinated (and appalled) at how much we have in common. To all the fine people who have been friends to me in years past, despite my *considerable* eccentricities, my *heartfelt* gratitude.

The So-Called Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas has been working as a journalist in Washington D.C. since the Roosevelt administration- and the White House since JFK. She has a really *extraordinarily* high opinion of herself- even in a profession full of egomaniacs- and people who really, really, *really* hate George W. Bush worship her, since she specializes in "Have you stopped beating your wife" questions.

In President Obama's 1st press conference she asked, "What countries in the Middle East have nuclear weapons"- like *any* US President is going to answer that- and asked if Pakistan as giving sanctuary to the "so-called terrorists." Why is it that Danny Aykroyd is never around when you need him?

"*So-called* terrorists?" That's no one should *ever* take her seriously. After that episode, Bill O'Reilly commented that Ms. Thomas had sounded like the Wicked Witch of the East (she's in D.C., so she'd have to be the Wicked Witch of the *East*) and that if the President had thrown a bucket of water on her, she would have melted. Shortly thereafter, some of the Usual Suspects got on O'Reilly's case for being sexist and ageist.

Uh-huh. I think Helen Thomas' fans getting outraged about somebody taking a verbal shot at her is *exactly* as absurd as Mike Tyson's fans boo-hoo-hooing about somebody punching Mike in the nose. For anyone reading this with a case of Bush Derangement Syndrome- (especially anyone who calls #43 a fascist) in a country without freedom of the press, exactly how long would Helen Thomas stay out of the gulag?

Binyam Mohamed

There's an item in the news today that Binyam Mohamed in on a plane back to Great Britian, after spending several years in Guantanamo. I have no direct knowledge of the merits of his case, but I *do* know know something about Mr. Mohamed's defense counsel.

Her name is Yvonne Bradley, and she was a classmate of mine at Notre Dame Law School, class of '87. She is now a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force (Reserve) JAG Corps. She is also an excellent attorney and a thoroughly decent human being. So, if you any of you hears someone say that the Gitmo detainees do not get *first-class* legal representation, tell them to *think* *again*.

Catherine the Great

Pop Quiz: How did Catherine the Great die? *Stop* *that* *snickering*!

Catherine the Great was one of the most capable and humane rulers that the people of Russia ever had, (considering some of her competition, that really isn't saying very much). However, more than 200 years after her death, the only thing most people *think* they know about her is a thoroughly vile slur put out by her political opponets. For the record, Catherine had a cerebral hemmorrhage, and died in her own bed.

Is there a moral to this story? Yes, two.
1. A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth gets out of bed in the morning, and
2. There is *NO* lady so fine- not even an *Empress*, but that her reputation can't be damaged by slander.

The Nature of Our Enemies

In the final month of WWII, when Allied troops liberated Nazi concentration camps, General Eisenhower commented that while he'd been at times concerned that American soldiers might not be clear on what they were fighting *for*, at least now they could be clear about what they were fighting *against*.

I thought of Eisenhower's words in recent days when I read news accounts from Afghanistan, that some Taliban members had sprayed acid in a young girl's face to terrorize her classmates from attending school.

I will *never* argue that American service members are angels- hell, we've got a few guys serving time at Leavenworth who richly deserve to spend the rest of their lives there. Having said that, I think it's clear that what is going on in Afghanistan represents a conflict between two completely irreconciliable philosophies of civilization (the 7th century versus the 21st) and I have absolutely *no* patience *what*so*ever* with the kind of moral relativism shown by some members of the media (most egregious by Helen Thomas with her "so-called terrorists" remark, and "both sides do terrible things" B.S.).

"How ill white hairs become a fool." Thank you, Prince Hal.

Erin's Middle Name

One of my favorite Honorary Nieces recently had a birthday, and I'm not going to say which one it was, because it makes me feel sooooo middle-aged. I still remember a beautiful day in May- some years back- when I saw her mother grinning even more broadly than usual- and she announced that Erin Nicole was on the way. Everybody else in her family calls her Erin. However, *I* always call her Erin Nicole, partly because I think that is a Beyond Way Cool name, and partly because, after being around her parents house when she was a little kidster, I figured it might be helpful to remind her that her middle name was *not*: "*Stop*... *running*... *around*!" or "*Will*... *you*... stop*... *that*... *running* *around*!" or (my personal all-time favorite) "If you don't stop that running around you're going to trip over Uncle Kent's legs, fall down, and hurt yourself......and then Uncle Kent will feel bad." (rotflmao!)

I remember being around her parents' house for breakfast one day many years ago. I was interested (and a bit relieved) to see that Erin Nicole had yogurt and orange juice. I'd been getting ready to tell her parents, uh, look, *ordinarily* nobody would second-guess you on your breakfast menu- but if you don't stop giving that kid triple Turkish expresso coffees every morning, Children Services is going to be out here. (Just kidding!)

Somewhat to my astonishment, Erin Nicole has not won any Olympic Gold Medals in sprint events, however, now that she's graduated from San Diego State, I'll not be the *least* bit surprised if she someday wins a Nobel Prize in Science or Medicine-(you heard it here *first* folks!) -she is a very smart young lady.

(I hope her parents will give her a very big hug for me- *if* they can *catch* her first!)

New York Times 5/21/1975

When I lived in Alaska, my father would always send me clippings from the Sunday New York Times editorial page whenever those those great, infallible saints of journalism opined about how Alaska should be governed. I would receive the clippings on Thursday. I finally told Dad that the Anchorage Daily News *always* reprinted those NYT columns on Monday under the heading of "look at what those idiots are saying now..."

Granted, the NYT *used* to have a great reputation- in the *first* half of the last century. In the past sixty years- not so much. While I do not much care for Ann Coulter, she once opined that while she hopes America does not get hit by another 9/11 style attack, if it happens, she hopes it will level The New York Times building- when the cleaning staff is out of the building. A stopped clock is right twice a day.

Erin Nicole's Good Influence

I just *have* to tell one more Erin Nicole story, that stays with me after, well, *quite* a few years. I had just finished a stint teaching on the USS Cape Cod and we'd pulled into San Diego, so I got to visit with Erin's parents, two of my favorite people. At the time, Erin's dear old dad was a United States Marine *Senior* Drill Instructor, and he took me, along with his family, for a tour of the Marine Recruit Training Depot. I've told friends of mine that it was like getting a tour of the Bolshoi ballet from Mikhail Baryshnikov, or an Opera House from Pavarotti--the man was completely in his element.

So, we're all loaded up in the family van, Dad and me up front, Mom and three kidsters in the back, and about one block from the house, a plaintive six-year-old's voice pipes up, "*Your* *seat* *belt's* *not* fastened* *daddy*!" I'll note in passing that while Erin Nicole has her Mom's *stunning* great looks, she *definitely* has her father's *extraordinary* gift for vocal projection.

"We're just going a few blocks."


At that point, I think I started biting my lip to keep from laughing. (If I was writing for a sitcom, I'd add a few more lines with the kidster citing Marine regulations and invoking the Commandant's name- but no.) And her dear ol' daddy *did* fasten his seat belt. I do hope that Erin Nicole will be pleased to know that all these years later, I still think of the delightful feisty kidster she was- and when I do....... I remember to fasten my seat belt. :)

Fondest Regards from Uncle Kent

Springtime at the 'Shoe

Here in Columbus, Ohio, we are quite proud of Ohio Stadium, a.k.a. "the Big Horseshoe"- the 6th biggest sports arena in *the* *world*. When Ohio State's football team played their annual intersquad scrimmage, 95,722 people paid to see it. (Terrelle Pryor threw two long touchdown passes in less than a minute. Message to Ohio State opponets: be afraid. Be *very* afraid!) On September 5th, the season starts. GO BUCKS!

Modern Music

When the Beatles made their debut in America 45 years ago, my father was not the least bit pleased. He really disliked what he called "that bangity-bang-bang music." I vividly recall once when the family was loaded up in the station wagon and we drove past WCOL, Columbus' rock station way back then, he commented (jokingly?), "Somebody give me a satchel charge."

In retrospect I wonder what anybody found so shocking about a group that sang songs like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (Possible premarital *hand* *holding*?!?! Reaaaaaally!)

A year ago, I think our popular culture hit an all-time low when the Oscar for best song from a movie went to "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp." I really wonder what it will take to shock this young young generation when they hit middle age.