Monday, June 21, 2010

Governor John Gilligan

Governor John Gilligan served as a Naval Officer in World War II. He also served as the mayor of Cincinnati and as the Ohio State Congressman from Ohio and was governor of Ohio from 1970 to 1974. He also taught a class in government at Notre Dame Law School. He is now Professor Emeritus.

In the early 1970s, there was some speculation that Senator Edmund Muskie might select Gilligan as his running mate, should he win the Democratic nomination for President in 1972. (McGovern spoiled that plan.) There was some talk that Gilligan might be a future candidate for President of the United States. If he had, he would have been the ninth Ohioan to win the office.

However, in the summer of 1974, Gilligan managed to commit a gaffe of monumental proportions. Gilligan was already taking some heat for having instituted a state income tax. While attending the Ohio State Fair in 1974, a newsman asked Gilligan if he was going to visit the sheep shearing exhibit. For reasons known best to himself, Governor Gilligan replied, “I shear taxpayers.” (My collaborator just asked me, “Why would he say that?” You can ask Governor Gilligan the same question, but I suspect he got tired of the question thirty-five years ago.) Before the election, all Ohio voters had heard that line in Republican ads several trillion times. He lost the election and never ran for office again.

Indeed, for many years, if you broached the subject of him running again, you would get a laugh. I once heard a classmate at Notre Dame say that the only thing he knew about Gilligan was that he was governor during the Kent State massacre. The kid was wrong: it was Rhodes. My own strongest memory of Governor (by then Professor) Gilligan was taking his course in American Government in 1987.

My strongest memory of that class is that the fellow sitting next to me shaking my shoulder on more than one occasion. Not only was I sleeping in the class, but my snoring was distracting everyone. I’m happy Governor Gilligan never said anything about that to me.

Arizona Senate Bill SB1070

In recent weeks, the Arizona Senate Bill about illegal immigration has been in the news. Has the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, read it? Has former Arizona governor and current U.S. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano read it? Has the mayor of Los Angeles read it? Not at last report? Has my collaborator read it? No. Have I read it? As a matter of fact, I have. Every single word on every single page. How, you may ask, am I so well-informed? (Aside from my brilliance and intellectual nature.) I got a copy from my good friend in San Diego, a retired Marine First Sergeant.

As I’ve said before, underestimate the quality of our people in the Armed Services at your peril.

Battlefield Philanthropist

Sixty-six years ago, on June 12, 1944, Private Ainsworth went ashore in Normandy with the Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment. He was one of two members of his company who didn’t get killed. A German artillery shell landed nearby and he was injured seriously enough to be discharged. I have never met Mr. Ainsworth, but I’ve seen a picture of him. I counted two arms, two legs and two eyes. It sounds to me like the Krauts did not hit anything TOO important. Apparently, Private Ainsworth got what Americans call a Million Dollar Wound. He fathered three children and had a career teaching school. His third child, Philip, managed to get a degree from Hereford College and married an American gal who was studying at Oxford in 1977 as part of The Ohio State University’s summer program. I was Phil’s best man when he got married March 18, 1978, thirty-two years ago. Way to go, Phil and Diane.

I’ve heard a few stories about what Private Ainsworth went through in those days in Normandy. I understand that he was an athletic bloke whose specialty was sneaking up behind German soldiers, grabbing them by the helmet and taking them prisoner. This, no doubt, made him very popular with his battalion’s intelligence officer, since he brought in good sources of interrogation.

Forgive my slightly warped sense of humor, but it seems to me that Private Ainsworth was a real battlefield philanthropist. Imagine, if you will, what it must have been like in those days. People who have seen the film Saving Private Ryan might have some tiny inkling of the fighting that went on in Normandy. So if you were a German soldier, what present would you rather receive? A: all the tea in China B: All the gold in Fort Knox or C: an all-expenses paid vacation to Canada for the next year, where you would receive three hots and a cot with credit toward your pension? If any of the men Private Ainsworth took prisoner cursed their luck, there are several thousand men buried in Normandy who would love to trade places with them.

It occurred to me one Christmas that some of those German soldiers are still alive, telling stories to their great-grandchildren, who would never have been born but for Private Ainsworth’s courage. (And inadvertent battlefield philanthropy.) I doubt if any of those ungrateful Kraut bastards ever sent Ainsworth a Christmas card. Well, nevermind. If they won’t, I’m writing him a tribute right now. Congratulations, Mr. Ainsworth, on surviving Normandy and being around to celebrate the sixty-sixth anniversary. Best wishes from America.

Mosque in Manhattan?

No freaking way. In recent days, some governments in Muslim countries have announced their intent to build a mosque and Islamic information center near the site of what was once the World Trade Center. While I’m completely dedicated to the principle of religious freedom in America, I am adamantly opposed to the construction of a mosque in Lower Manhattan. For the benefit of people who haven’t spent a year learning Arabic, and serving as an Arabic linguist in the Naval Security Group. (I also spent over a year in the Persian Gulf.) I’d like to point out that there is a Muslim tradition that mosques are to be constructed on land conquered from the infidel. Centuries ago, my Scottish ancestors no doubt celebrated acquiring conquered land by burning a cross on it. That was a custom amongst people who had never heard of black people. If, however, someone tried to burn a cross today in the middle of Harlem, I seriously doubt that would lead to a peaceful resolution.

Similarly, I figure that Japanese followers of Shinto have just as much right to build a temple as Christians do to build a church. However, if Shintoists tried to erect a shrine over the wreckage of the USS Arizona, I would have a major problem. In response to my collaborator’s point that there are several mosques in Manhattan already, I don’t care. I don’t want any new ones build near the site of 9/11. I would be in favor of opening Piggly Wigglys on either side of them.

The allowing of the building of a mosque near the World Trade Center site sends exactly the wrong message.


Years ago, while teaching onboard a US Navy ship, I met aRoyal Navy officer to whom I commented after reading his name tag, “There are an awful lot of people looking for you, sir.”

He replied, “Yes, I hear that quite a bit.”

He was Lieutenant Commander Truelove.

Last year, I met a foster mother who I told she had the perfect name for a child who just about everyone would love. Her moniker? “Chocolate Jones.” Very few people don’t like chocolate.

Earlier today, I think I reached coincidences of Guinness proportions. Some history buffs might recall that one of the founders of Time Magazine was Henry Luce. His widow was the playwright Claire Booth Luce. Earlier today, I became assigned counsel to Miss Bobby Luce. I’m happy to report that Miss Luce does have a sense of humor about the fact that an awful lot of guys are on the lookout for a loose woman.

I was also stunned at the coincidence (especially after my birthday message to Her Majesty) that for the first time in my legal career, I am representing a royal: Miss Barbara Royal. I learned that the children involved in his case are named Jerhon Bird, Tiana Bird and Auhryia and Denzel Ferguson. (To my English readers, I ask: what are the odds that I would get a case involving not only a royal, but not one but TWO Fergies?) What I’ve related is all in the public record. If I don’t keep a sense of humor, I would surely cry.

Doug Dougherty’s Dutiful Defense

Doug Dougherty is one of the finest lawyers and people I’ve ever known. He and I go way back to Miss Rickner’s morning Kindergarten at Barrington Road Elementary School in September of 1960, back when Dwight D. Eisenhower was President.

Doug’s practice is primarily in domestic relations law. He has made a career of keeping his head while all about him are losing theirs. I believe that he is the epitome of the reasonable men and I would highly recommend him to anyone who needs divorce counsel. For anyone interested, you can go to YouTube and search for him to witness him arguing and winning a case before the Ohio Supreme Court. Way to go, Doug!

Several years ago, he was assigned to represent a man accused of rape. His client professed his innocence; Doug told me he wasn’t sure about his client’s claim, but as a professional, he did a bang-up job. (As Doug has always done.) Ultimately, his client was acquitted. Five years later, he got a call from his former client, who said, “Mr. Dougherty, you did such a great job of representing me; I’ve got another trumped-up rape charge against me, and I’d like you to represent me again.” Doug replied, “I’m not interested.”

In closing, have I mentioned that I admire Doug both as a lawyer and as a human being?

Here is a link to a video of Doug arguing a case before the Ohio Supreme Court for those who are curious to see a great lawyer in action:

Maureen Cunningham’s Cook County Consultation

Maureen Cunningham was a colleague of mine at the University of Notre Dame. She is a woman of towering intellect, but not of towering stature. She is very much vertically challenged. Maureen and I got along just fine. Whenever I got her in the library, I would help her get books off of the top shelves. If I wasn’t around, she would have to climb up on the bottom shelves to reach the book she needed. I believe this shows that Maureen is possessed both of innovation and determination.

She demonstrated both qualities in abundance in getting her law degree from Notre Dame. Her first year, she flunked out. The dean told her she seemed to have a problem with formal logic, so she went to Loyola and took classes in formal logic. She then returned and took her first year for the second time. It took her five years, but she got her law degree from Notre Dame and I admire her dedication so much.

Relatively early in her legal career, Maureen assisted in the defense of a 19-year-old fellow who, she noted, was almost as diminutive as she. The charge against him was no laughing matter: first-degree murder. She went to visit her client at Cook County Jail and went through four different locked doors. She thought that it reminded her of the opening of the Don Adams comedy Get Smart. She was sitting on one of the upper floors at a bench that reminded her of a picnic table when her conversation with her client got a rude interruption. The loudest alarm bells she had ever heard in her life went off and she saw several corrections officers running around at top speed. It went through her mind: there is a full-scale riot going on and I’m going to die today in Cook County Jail. Ordinarily, lawyers give advice to clients. At that moment, her client gave her some advice: “Stand in the corner.” Which she immediately did.

Her client then made a gesture which she has never forgotten. Her client stood directly between her and any possible harm.

I’m happy to report that Maureen made it out of Cook County Jail in one piece that day and she and her co-counsel eventually got her client acquitted of all charges. The funny thing about legal work is that, in real life, you don’t get to look at your report card. Only her client knows the truth about what happened in that case. For what it’s worth, he never got in trouble with the law again. Fourteen years later, Maureen attended that man’s funeral. Considering some of the interactions I’ve had with some of my clients, I was deeply moved that Maureen inspired such devotion in a client.

Einstein’s Kids

I recently learned that one of Einstein’s sons became a hydraulic engineer at UC Berkeley. While all of ole Albert’s grandchildren are now deceased, one of Einstein’s great-grandchildren (who carries the family name) practices medicine as an anesthesiologist and that gentleman is fluent in four languages: English, German, French and Spanish. (You’re a doctor who is fluent in four languages? What are you, some kind of Einstein? Well yes, as a matter of fact, I am.)

I understand that Dr. Einstein has three teenage daughters. I wonder how adept he is at coping with that situation.

I once was friends with a guy who was very big on eugenics and thought it was essential for extremely smart people to have large numbers of children. For him, I hope he considers the story of Einstein’s other son, who showed promise of extraordinary brilliance as a young child. By age twenty, however, had developed such schizophrenia that he spent the next thirty years of his life in a mental institution.

Adventures With My Pedometer

Now that I’m in my mid-fifties, I have come to accept that the U.S. Olympic team is going to have to get by without me; I’ll never win any gold medals. However, it would be an excellent idea for me to get more exercise. With that in mind, some years ago, I purchased a pedometer. Then I lost the thing a month later and bought another one. Then I lost that one and purchased yet another. It’s a very good idea to wear a pedometer and try to get in 10,000 steps in a day, which I usually manage to do. It’s also a good idea to extend yourself even a little bit; even for non-triathletes, 1,000 steps is a good start. (I would be very well advised to lose 25 pounds…then lose another 25.) I’m six-foot-three, so I don’t look like a blimp, but I could definitely benefit from losing weight. That’s why I try to have a daily adventure with my pedometer. If I quit at, say, 11,950 steps, it could represent the Buckeyes losing to those filthy, obnoxious, disgusting maize-and-blue jerks from up north.

If I get up to 10,000 steps, I think that, since Ohio State’s football team plays 12 games a year, if I take 12,000 steps, it will represent Ohio State having an undefeated season, representing a shot at a national championship.

So far this week, I’ve helped the Buckeyes win two national championships plus two undefeated seasons. If, later this evening, I get anywhere close to 13,000 steps, I will take a long walk cheering myself on doing my own play-by-play: “Here’s the play, five seconds left! Mitchell takes it in the goal line. He breaks to the middle of the field, cuts to the sideline. He’s got one man to beat. He’s going, going, gone!”

In this photograph, Woody is watching me take those last few steps.

I Saw Elvis on the Road to Jerusalem

Yes, I did indeed see Elvis on the road to Jerusalem. While taking a bus tour of Israel back in 1994, the bus taking us from Haifa to Jerusalem made a stop at a gift shop that is a shrine to Elvis and his music. There’s a statue of Elvis out front that is at least two meters tall atop a two-meter pedestal. Inside the shrine, Elvis’ music plays nonstop. The walls are covered with photos of Elvis and you can buy any manner of Elvis memorabilia. I was once again reminded of the ubiquity of American influence throughout the world.

(My collaborator tells me the title of this essay sounds like the title of a good country song.)

Here is a picture taken by blogger Daniel Hames of the place to which I am referring.

The Colors of the NFL

Pop Quiz: Which was the first major professional sports league in America to integrate?

Answer: The National Football League.

Can anyone name the first black player in the NFL? (A shake of the head from my collaborator.) The answer is that the Cleveland Browns, under the leadership of coach and general manager Paul Brown, signed Bill Willis to play a year before Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Paul Brown had an excellent eye for talent. Four years earlier, he had coached Willis at Ohio State, making a solid contribution to an undefeated Buckeye team that won the national title.

The 1942 team is one that Buckeye fans can be intensely proud of, even 68 years later. Of the 43 men on that squad, 39 of them completed their Bachelors degrees and 19 of them earned Masters degrees. Of the four non-graduates, three of them were killed in World War II.

To recap: Coach Brown, formerly of the Scarlet and Gray, figured it was a good idea for a black to play with the Browns. Paul Brown won several championships for Cleveland over the following ten years. Ironically, he lost his job after having a personality conflict with a legendary running back: Jim Brown. (I’m not making that up.)

Bill Willis’s number 99 is retired and holds a place of honor at Ohio Stadium next to Ohio State’s six Heisman Trophy winners. Sadly, Willis just recently died, on November 27, 2007 in Columbus at the age of 86. He was in his late eighties. For anyone who appreciates irony, you might enjoy the story of the LAST NFL team to integrate. It was, Kafkaesque as it may sound, the Washing ton Redskins. The team owner, Preston Marshall, was a notorious racist who once declared that he would not have a black player on his team until the Harlem Globetrotters hired a white player. The Redskins were a title contender in the 1940s. But as the 1950s rolled along, they slowly became the laughingstock of the NFL. It was not until 1960 that Marshall finally agreed to have black players on his team. In a truly bizarre development, when Marshall’s plan became public, the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party carried signs that said “Keep the Redskins White.”

Mozart and the Whale

If anyone wants to be able to understand Aspergians in general (or me in particular), I highly recommend Jerry Newport’s Mozart and the Whale. They are both Aspergian and married, divorced, then remarried. As I read their life stories, I recognized an awful lot of myself. Hollywood made a rather good movie by the same title starring Josh Hartnett and Radha Mitchell.

The title of the book comes from the authors’ alter egos. Mrs. Newport always identified with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s older sister, Maria Anna Mozart. Some reports say that her musical gifts equaled her brother’s, but her father never supported her; he was eager to marry her off and she wound up supporting herself giving piano lessons. Jerry Newport’s alter ego was the Disney cartoon character, Willy the Whale, who sings opera. I never thought the story of a Disney cartoon character would almost move me to tears, but that one certainly did. You see, Willy the Whale develops into a a great opera singer, but an evil scientist concludes that a whale could never sing opera and winds up harpooning Willy in an effort to rescue the real opera singer that the scientist believes must be held hostage somewhere in Willy’s digestive tract. The Disney cartoon speculates that Willy must be singing in the sweet hereafter. (I refuse to debate the question of
whether there is a hereafter for gigantic sea-dwelling mammals.)

One coincidence in the book made me chuckle. Jerry Newport attended the University of Michigan several years before I attended Ohio State. (I’ll try not to hate him for that.) Another coincidence simply astounded me. In the last months of 1999, Jerry Newport attempted suicide by swallowing pills.

Anyone familiar with the motion picture Mozart and the Whale, produced by Steven Spielberg, can appreciate the irony that, while Mrs. Newport was confined to a psychiatric ward (another stunning coincidence), one of her therapists gently told her that she needed to accept the fact that she was only imagining having had meetings with Steven Spielberg about producing a film based upon her and her husband’s life story.

I give Mozart and the Whale my highest possible recommendation.