Monday, December 30, 2013

Ice Bowl Referee

One of the most famous NFL championship games ever played took place in Green Bay, Wisconsin on New Year’s Eve 1967. The night before, when the Dallas Cowboys settled into their hotel rooms, a Dallas player named Lance Rentzel, called the Green Bay weather bureau and learned that it was 15 degrees with a 10 mph wind from the north.  When he awoke the next morning, he called the weather bureau again and learned that it was 15 degrees below zero with a 20 mph wind from the north.  Playing on Lambeau Field that day was a nightmare. Television commentator Frank Gifford made the first memorable comment of the day when he told the national television audience, “I just took a bite out of my coffee.”  That game made a legend out of Packer’s right guard, Jerry Kramer, because he threw a crushing block on Cowboy’s defensive tackle Jethro Pugh to enable the Packers’ quarterback, Bart Starr, to sneak into the end zone on the last play of the game.  I’ve read many accounts of that game, but learned something new about it just a few days ago. Immediately after the opening kickoff, one of the referees attempted to blow his whistle.  He found that, in order to remove it from his mouth, he was going to lose a piece of his lip.  For the rest of the game the officiating crew dare not blow their whistles.  Instead, they had to yell, “He’s down” or call the penalty verbally.

An Observation on Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A has managed to put itself in the news a great deal lately, although it doesn’t strike me as all that big a deal.  It’s not that Chick-fil-A has refused customers because of their sexual orientation.  The corporation’s CEO, S. Truett Cathy, has made contributions to a charity which disapproves of the “gay lifestyle.”  I have been to Chick-fil-A in my lifetime, although I’m not a regular.  I recently learned something rather interesting about that outfit: all Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays.  Question: should restaurants close on Sundays? (Discuss amongst yourselves)  I also learned that S. Truett Cathy was born on March 14, 1921.  He is few months short of his 93rd birthday.  I understand he recently turned over the mantle of CEO to his son.  To me, this raises two interesting questions:  1) how much longer will Chick-fil-A restaurants be closed on Sunday; and 2) how much longer will they engage in business practices which some people regard as “gay unfriendly?”

Friday, December 13, 2013

72 Years Ago on December 11th

Almost everyone has heard of December 7th, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but relatively few recall the momentous event that took place just 4 days later. After Pearl Harbor, the United States was at war with Japan, but not Germany...until December 11th, 1941, when Adolph Hitler gave a speech, listing his grievances against the Roosevelt Administrations, and then declaring war against the United States. It is altogether possible (but by no means certain) that Congress would have voted to approve a request from FDR for a Declaration of War against Germany. Instead, Hitler made it easy for him...and the outcome of the Second World War became a foregone conclusion as a result of that incredible blunder.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Stretcher Bearer Poem

I recently read Emily Mayhew’s book “Wounded” about the British Army’s medical corps during WWI.  I read a poem that a royal army chaplain attached to a field hospital wrote based on what he heard from stretcher bearers attached to his unit.  Reading it brought tears to my eyes.   After finishing it, I felt almost like I’d walked a couple of miles in foot-deep mud, smelling dead bodies, and cringing at the sound of incoming artillery rounds.  Can you imagine how badly a man would have to be injured to require a year’s worth of hospitalization and how hellish an environment he would be in for other men to regard that as an extraordinary bit of good luck?  It is my opinion that anyone who cannot make a rhyme does not qualify as a poet.  About the only bit of explanation this needs is that M.O. stands for medical officer. 

“Easy does it – a bit o’ trench ‘ere
Mind that blinkin’ bit of wire
There’s shell ‘ole on your left there
Lift ‘em up a little ‘igher
Stick it, lad, ye’ll soon be there now
Want best ‘ere for a while?
Let ‘im down then – gently, gently
There you are, lad, that’s the style
Want a drink mate? ‘Ere’s me bottle

Lift ‘is head up for ‘im, Jack
Put my tunic underneath ‘im
‘Ows that chummy?  That’s the tack!
Guess we’d better make a start now
Ready for another spell?
Best be goin’, we won’t ‘urt ye
But ‘e might just start to shell
Are you right, mate? Off we goes then
That well over on the right
Gawd almighty, that’s a near ‘un!
‘Old your end up good and tight
Nigh mind, lad, you’re for blighty
Mind this rotten bit of board
We’ll soon ‘ave ye tucked in bed, lad
‘Opes ye gets to my old ward
No more war for you my ‘earty
This’ll get ye well away
12 good months in dear old blighty
12 good months if you’re a day
M.O. got a bit of something
What’ll stop that blasted pain
Ere’s a rotten bit o’ ground, mate
Lift of ‘igher – up again
Wish ‘ed stop ‘is blasted shellin’
Makes it rotten for the lad
When a feller’s been and got it
It affects ‘im twice as bad
Ow’s it goin’ now then sonny?
‘Ere that narrow bit of trench
Careful, mate, ther’s some dead jerries
Lawd almighty, what a stench!
‘Ere we are now, stretcher case boys
Bring him aht a cup o’ tea

Inasmuch as ye have done it
Ye have done it unto me.”

Emily Mayhew

A Great Jefferson Quote

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was the chief draftsman of this country’s Declaration of Independence and is renowned as one of the most brilliant and scholarly chief executives this country has ever had.  If I had to choose one quote of his as my favorite, it would be this: 

“What care I if my neighbor worships one god or twenty?  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  

Stalin Potsdam Quote

Whenever I hear leftists deplore how Harry Truman’s evil lead to the outbreak of the cold war, I’m reminded of something Joseph Stalin said at the Potsdam conference in Berlin outside in July of 1945. A reporter asked Stalin if he was happy to be where he was (42 months earlier the sound of German artillery fire was audible within the Kremlin).  Stalin’s response was, “Czar Alexander made it to Paris.”  If anyone thinks old Uncle Joe would have been satisfied with making it to Paris, I can get you a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn.  

Archie Griffin

For the benefit of Britains who want to know who occupies a place in American hearts analogous to the British royals: a very few actors, a very few coaches and very few athletes.  In Columbus, Ohio, Archie Griffin is generally regarded as slightly less than a god and a great deal more than a mere mortal.  This is partially because he is the only football player in history to be a two-time winner of the Heisman trophy (awarded each year to America’s top college football player).  Archie has spent the 40 years since his college playing days playing in the NFL, serving as Ohio State’s Assistant Athletic Director, heading OSU’s Alumni Association, and making himself available for every charitable event held in the Buckeye state.  His good name is such that both political parties have approached him to run for governor.  Forgive my warped sense of humor; I think it would hilarious if he took both of them up on that offer.  That way there could be an election night announcement that after hours of Archie Griffin the Republican and Archie Griffin the democrat running neck-in-neck, there would be a surprise winner of Archie Griffin as a write in candidate.  

Christine Marzano

While watching the film “7 Psychopaths” (which I recommend to anyone who doesn’t have an issue with some pretty extreme violence), one of the subplots was a group of guys trying to compose a story about a Vietnamese soldier whose family was massacred at
Mai Lai and who, years later, plans to attend a reunion of the unit of the men who killed his family and exact a horrible revenge.  In the first draft of the story we see the Vietnamese soldier making his preparations in a hotel room as he says a prayer for vengeance a very nice looking blonde, wearing only bright red panties, steps out of the bathroom, asked what language he was speaking and when he says, “Vietnamese,” says something to the effect of “Wasn’t there a war there or something?” Later in the movie, we see the author wrestling with rewriting the story and, once again, we see the same young woman stepping out of the bathroom making another bimboesque comment.  At this point, I experienced mixed feeling.  I thought to myself “That is a very fine-looking, well-proportioned young lady and she could come over to my place and go skinny dipping any time.”  For those who point out I do not have a pool, I would say, “For her, I’d put one in.”  At the same time, I felt genuinely sorry for the young woman who gets to do two (literal) walk-on appearances in a film wearing next to nothing and sounding quite intellectually challenged.  I truly felt sorry for this actress.  Ah, but there is a plot twist.  Toward the very end of the film, another character rewrites the scene and as the middle-aged Vietnamese lawyer is about to set off a suicide bomb killing himself in the midst of a group of American Vietnam veterans, a voice in Vietnamese speaks up and we read from the subtitles that she is saying, “Stay your hand, brother.”  Once again we see the same young blonde actress.  This time, though, they at least gave her a crimson dress to wear and the narrator explains that she studied Vietnamese at Yale. (Obviously,
she is a babelicious brainiac.)  And the tormented soul manages to find a measure of peace.  I was so intrigued by that plot twist that I actually looked up the actress who got stuck with playing the role of the “hooker.”  Her name is Christine Marzano and I learned, much to my amusement, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Princeton.  This leaves my Aspergian brain to ask the question, “If she went to Princeton, and her character went to Yale, why is she wearing Harvard colors?”  I actually posted that question on Ms. Marzono’s Facebook page, but have not yet received an answer.

Jock Yablonski 44 Years Later

This New Year’s Eve will mark the 44th anniversary of one of the most grizzly incidents in the history of the American labor movement.  Jock Yablonski had challenged Tony Boyle for the presidency of the United Mine Workers and had almost defeated Boyle in a union election.  Boyle was so enraged at this challenge to his authority that he ordered his subordinates to have Yablonski murdered.  Two weeks after the election, Yablonski, his wife and his daughter were all shot to death in their beds.  At first, most people doubted that the killers would ever be brought to justice, but due to an extraordinary joint investigation by the local police, Pennsylvania State police, and the FBI, a special prosecutor, Richard Sprague, won convictions first against the three trigger men; then, the union official who'd hired them; then, two of Boyles’ lieutenants and, over two years later, Tony Boyle himself.  The wife of one of the trigger men and her father, a low-ranking union official, turned states evidence, entered the witness protection program, and have not been heard from since. 

Tony Boyle and his two lieutenants both received life sentences, and both died in prison.  Of the three trigger men: one, Aubran Wayne “Buddy” Martin, died after over 20 years in prison.  The second, Claude Edward Vealey, died after serving 30 years in prison, and the fourth, Paul E. Gilly, is still doing time almost 44 years later. 

As horrible as the Yablonski murders were, Jock Yablonski achieved some posthumous vindication a few months after his death.  Another dissident candidate defeated Tony Boyle in a union election – the first time in the history of the UMW that an incumbent had failed to win reelection.  Secretary of the Treasury, George Schultz, assigned literally hundreds of investigators to monitor the actions of the UMW’s leadership. 

I think the Yablonski case is a great example of the wisdom of the saying: "The Wheels of Justice turn slowly but exceedingly fine."

Wisdom from Jean B.

One of my dearest friends is a former law school classmate from Kentucky named Jean.  She is quite devoted to her family, the Catholic Church and the University of Kentucky’s basketball program (I’m honestly not sure in which order).  If you ever played basketball with Jean and somebody misses a shot, let her have the rebound – I repeat, let her have the rebound. It’s not worth your life.
She once helped the law school’s women’s bookstore basketball team advance clear to the Notre Dame finals, where her opposite number was a young woman who had played center for the Notre Dame varsity.  Jean was giving away 4 inches and I guess about 40 pounds, but she wasn’t backing off.  I still remember the look on the young referee’s face as he watched those two tussle over a loose ball.  I’m sure that young fella was thinking, “They’re not paying me enough for this.”

I sometimes kid Jean that her Kantucky accent makes her sound like Ellie May Clampett, but anyone who underestimates Jean’s intelligence is making a HUGE mistake.  Her LSAT score was 98th percentile.
I could make quite a list of things I admire about Jean B., but the one I most frequently quote her on is what she told her husband-to-be shortly before their marriage back in September of 1991.

She told her fiancĂ© “Darlin’, I really don’t think it’s ever going to come to this, but I want you to know that if you ever hit me, you’d better make sure that the first’un is a good’n cause that’s all you’re gonna get.”  The last time I saw Jean’s husband, he was walking around above the ground without needing a wheelchair, a walker, a respirator or seeing eye dog, which tends to indicate to me that he has never hit her.

Indeed, every time I hear Miranda Lambert sing “Gunpowder and Lead” I think, “That sounds like what it would be like if any man ever laid his hands on Jean.”

In fairness to Jean, while I sometimes kid her about being a very formidable woman, I want to emphasize that, in the close to 30 years that I’ve known her; I have never once seen her lose her temper.  And I really don’t want to.  And, trust me on this, you don’t want to either.

An Incident in London

When I was attending the Notre Dame Law School’s London program to complete my second year of law school, I heard that a young black gentleman had walked into the law center and announced that he was Jesus Christ.  Happily enough, no one was injured.  At this point, I want to assure everyone that I’m not trying to rag on anybody’s religion, but I think it’s an interesting question: what would you do if you were confronted by such a figure.  I once read of a psychologist who treated a patient who claimed to be Jesus Christ.  The good doctor said to him, “Great! We can put you to work in the carpenter’s shop.” I wonder if I’d been in the law center at the time, would I have had the presence of mind to say: a) “Great!  Everybody here could use a good foot-washing,” and/or B) “Can you turn our water into wine.”  This incident did not make the papers and that young fellow never bothered to make a second coming.  I can’t help but point out that the consequences of such a declaration are a great deal different in the present day than they were in Palestine in the early part of the first century A.D. (or if you prefer, C.E)  If a young fellow announced that he was Jesus of Nazareth, that would not be a problem, but if he declared himself to be Jesus *Christ,* things would be a great deal different, since the term “Christ” declared a claim to be the messiah and the leader of the Jewish nation. First, the Jewish high priest, Kaifus, would want him to be stoned to death for blasphemy, and the Roman Governor Pontius Pilot would want him to be crucified for sedition.  I am glad I’ve had the good fortune to be born in this era.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I am a Wambaughian

Anyone familiar with the genres of police novels and of true life crime stories is familiar with the cop/author Joseph Wambaugh.  He served 14 years with the Los Angeles Police Department. He became a celebrity after his first novel, The New Centurions, and ultimately had to resign from the force when burglary suspects started asking for his autograph.  I have read a great many of Wambaugh’s books.  I respect his insights and enjoy his off-the-wall sense of humor.

Many years ago, the warden of San Quentin invited Wambaugh to speak to a writing class for the inmates and during the question/answer period, a convict asked Wambaugh what was his position on capital punishment.  After being assured that his audience wanted a straight answer and was not just trying to bust a cop’s chops, Wambaugh said, “I believe a man has the right to do his time in one piece. I will give you all the crimes of passion you want, but anyone who commits a cold-blooded murder while they are doing time or puts out a contract to have someone killed while they are behind bars, ought to get the death penalty.”  Every man present agreed with him.  In principle, I completely agree with former detective Sergeant Wambaugh, and I thought of his position when I read FBI agent John Douglas’s book, “Whosoever Fights Monsters.” Special Agent Douglas was one of the founders of the FBI Behavioral Sciences unit and was a pioneer in the practice of profiling serial killers.  He once went to San Quentin to interview Emil Kemper.  Kemper is an
especially scary individual, partially because he is a double-digit serial killer.  At the age of 15 he murdered his grandparents and spent 5 years in a mental hospital.  After he got well enough to tell the doctors what they wanted to hear, they sent him home to mom.  A few years later, Kemper confessed to killing his mom, his mom’s best friend and several young college coeds.  Kemper has been living in public housing since 1972, and I don’t think he’s going to need a moving van any time soon.  At the end of Douglas’s interview with Kemper, he rang for the guard to let him out of the conference room.  No guard appeared and a minute went by.  Douglas pressed the call button again, becoming concerned with his 6’9” 300’ roommate whose method of killing was always manual strangulation.  Still no guard. Another minute went by and Kemper commented, “They're probably at lunch.”  Another minute passed and Kemper said, “If I went all ape-shit on you, you'd be in a world of hurt. Imagine if they just found your head on the floor.”  Douglas pointed out to Kemper that killing an FBI agent would get him in an awful lot of trouble to which Kemper replied, “I'm doing 9 life sentences without the possibility of parole.  What do you think they're going to do to me?  Take away my TV privileges?”  Douglas realized that he was in danger of falling into the Stockholm syndrome of identifying with Kemper, so in a flash of inspiration he said, “Oh come on, I'm an FBI agent.  Do you really think I'd come in here without backup?” Kemper inquired, “What?  Do you have a poison pen or something?”

Douglas: “Wouldn’t you like to know?”  

Very shortly thereafter, the guards arrived to Special Agent Douglas’s immense relief.  It was a result of this incident that the behavioral science unit has a firm policy of all interviews with inmate subjects taking place with at least two agents present.

On his way out the door, Kemper said to Douglas, “You know I was kidding don't you?”  

Douglas didn’t think Kemper was kidding and neither do I.