My civic duty.

If memory serves, I just did jury duty a scant 2.5 years ago, but as I recall, they told us we were safe from being called again for two years, so I guess my time is up.

By the time most of you read this, I’ll be cooling my heels at the storied Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, waiting to be thrown out of the jury pool. I’m always thrown out of the jury pool. That’s what lawyers do to journalists, even though we’re trained to put our personal opinions aside and consider things objectively. (Stipulated: This is not always a skill I excelled at, but I was a columnist.) Most of us are familiar with courthouse routines and procedures and are pretty well-informed. So of course lawyers give us the heave-ho at the first opportunity.

I’m bringing a book.

So this is an open thread for whatever might be happening in the world. I figure Barry’s speech will be topic one. (Here’s Dana Milbank on the Twittering of the speech.) But if y’all want to swap soufflé recipes, that’s fine, too. Assuming I’m not sequestered for a six-week-long death-penalty case, I’ll be back tomorrow.

Posted at 1:06 am in Current events, Detroit life |

82 responses to “My civic duty.”

  1. Catherine said on February 25, 2009 at 1:20 am

    If you wish to be excused from a criminal case in LA, there are two magic words: Rodney King. “OJ” works too. Also “Rampart.” Not that I’d decline to perform my civic duty.

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  2. Dexter said on February 25, 2009 at 2:14 am

    Obama must have seen how sickly Lieberman was and Obama gave him a big bear hug…
    Anybody catch my man Dennis Kucinich just talking a blue-streak at Obama as Obama passed him as he exited, signing programs…Obama was all smiles but he was all mouth-clenched and attentive as Dennis was trying to get a point across.
    Obama sounded good when he said he’ll close Guantanamo Bay and end US sanctioned torture…and basically end the US involvement in Iraq…but don’t worry folks, the US Embassy in Baghdad will be working overtime forever…the US military presence in The Region will keep increasing since Obama is focussed on building up a huge occupation of Afghanistan and who knows what will happen in Pakistan proper.

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  3. Pam said on February 25, 2009 at 5:33 am

    I meant to comment yesterday…. Your souffle is/was gorgeous! It deserves admiration! Bravo!

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  4. Linda said on February 25, 2009 at 6:25 am

    An even bigger kiss of death for jury duty is to be related to a cop, and one of the big jokes where I work is that the most called-on person for jury duty is a cop’s wife in a nearby department. You could time her getting kicked off a jury with a stopwatch. Also, my brother-in-law, who has never registered to vote in the serene belief that this would keep him off a jury…not so much. Just an urban legend. Nowadays they use driver’s registration and other things to create a bigger jury pool. He gave up his right to vote for decades and got called up last week.

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  5. Connie said on February 25, 2009 at 6:30 am

    My husband has been called for jury duty so many times I can’t even count. He served on a DUI jury (first vote: all the women voted guilty the men not) but then his mental health work experience starting getting him knocked off. I never quite got that. Because he understood crazy people better than the average bear?

    I was called several years ago. I received a letter to report at 8 a.m. on the day my then 14 yr old daughter was scheduled for major surgery, involving many hours under anesthetic. (Orthognathic, we talked about this in comments once before) The person I talked to on the phone told me my only option was to show up and hope the judge took pity on me. I told her no way, and she suggested I fax a letter to the judge begging to be excused from reporting. Which I did. Then I called the number after 4 p.m. the day before and learned I did not have to report.

    What would you have done? Jury duty in S. part of county, or daughter in surgery in N. part of county?

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  6. Linda said on February 25, 2009 at 6:55 am

    In Ohio, they would have just given you another, later date to serve jury duty. No conflict.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 25, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Clergy — the auto-peremptory dismissal! Prosecutors think we’ll be too kindly and want to let the guilty off, defense attorneys think we want to judge and punish. Three times in, three times tossed the moment the lawyers shuffle thru the profiles: “Your honor, 16, 19, and 22 may be dismissed.” Usually 16 was a cop’s wife, and 22 is Nancy or her kin.

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  8. beb said on February 25, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Connie, in Detroit they would have rescheduled you for a later date.

    I got kicked off a jury once because, I think, I answered two of the rote questions at the same time. I think the attoneys thought I was either too smart or a smart-ass (aren’t they kind of the same). My wife gets kicked off for being a nurse.

    Detroit follows a one day/one case procedure. Which means that one comes into a large pool (lounge) room and wait until a case needs a jury. While waiting the pool will be subjected to either TV like “The View” or a movie. One case was tainted because the movie was a legal thriller. Mostly one reads or sleeps. In a lot of cases there’s a plea deal made just before the trial starts. So around Noon, if you haven’t been called to a trial you get sent home. I think I’ve sat through the day in the pool room more often then I have been sent to trial.

    One of the things that worries me if I ever get selected for a trial is that conditions in prison are reported to be so hellacious that I don’t know that I could send a man or woman into those conditions unless they were a clear and present menace to society.

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  9. basset said on February 25, 2009 at 8:15 am

    A few years ago I was seated on a circuit court jury even though I knew the judge, the prosecutor, and both the court officers, was a working journalist at the time, and said so during the selection process. if I remember right the defendant did a deal and pled out the first day.

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  10. Dorothy said on February 25, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I assume since my son is a probation officer I would be dismissed quickly if called upon now.

    And OT but I have to do it – whooo hoooo Kenyon Swimming in the NYTimes!!!!

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  11. Julie Robinson said on February 25, 2009 at 8:27 am

    After years of wanting to serve jury duty I finally got my chance, and I still have nightmares about the evidence that was passed around the jury box. It was a beating case, and object used was a table radio, and the beaten area was the head/brain. I salute everyone who works in criminal justice; I sure don’t have the stomach. I doubt I’ll serve again in a criminal case because I’ll have to honestly answer that I will close my eyes instead of viewing the gory evidence.

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  12. ROgirl said on February 25, 2009 at 8:31 am

    I got jury duty at my local municipal court, a drunk driving case. We found the guy guilty, found out later it wasn’t his first. His lawyer tried to argue the breathalyser reading was faulty because there was interference from the police station radar installation, but the prosecution brought in the guy who calibrates the breathalyser every week to testify.

    The next year I was called for jury duty to criminal court in Oakland County and got on a trial that involved a lawyer and a used car dealer. One was a fool and the other was a crook.

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  13. jcburns said on February 25, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Is it specifically mentioned in the Constitution that you can’t twitter from the jury box? I think not. The founding fathers celebrate 140 characters of sporadic free speech. So…there you go.

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  14. brian stouder said on February 25, 2009 at 9:14 am

    The ‘twittering while Rome burns’ article Nance linked is flatly bizarre.

    When the president was entering the chamber, I noticed a member of congress busily thumbing his blackberry (or whatever), and commented on it to Pam…the guy either stopped short or expertly timed it – as he snapped the thing shut and dropped it in the pocket of his suit jacket just in time to seamlessly reach out and shake the president’s hand.

    Tell ya what; if I cannot go into the Allen County Courthouse with a cell phone (nor can any of the lawyers, for that matter), then those sons of bitches oughta leave their toys at home when they walk into the United States Captal Building…if not for ‘security reasons’, then for the sake of simple decorum

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  15. Julie Robinson said on February 25, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Brian, I’ve also been called to federal jury duty, and you can’t take anything into that building. Not your cell, not paper and pencil, not even a book to read while waiting. The last one really escapes me, and I’m glad all the trials have been cancelled. It’s definitely a double standard once again.

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  16. Hank Stuever said on February 25, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Nancy, if you ever want to serve on a jury, come here and get a DC drivers’ license. The pool is so shallow (I’d guess 300,000 after you weed it down to adults who live here, have a license or are registered to vote here, will respond to summons, and can fill out the questionnaire) and the needs are so high (a busy Superior Court, a really busy federal court) that your every-two-years duty report comes like clockwork (in alternating years between federal and District). I also used to get tossed out on the journo bias, in other states. Not anymore. Unless the entire pool is thanked for their time and sent home, I’m empaneled or nearly-empaneled every time. Just another irony of life in taxation-without-representation land.

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  17. Jason T. said on February 25, 2009 at 10:18 am

    My brother’s a cop and I’m a journalist. I guess that means no jury service for me … but I still get called and have to schlep downtown and sit around for a few hours anyway.

    Dorothy, just wear your Princess Leia costume to the courthouse, like Tina Fey in “30 Rock,” and you’ll be fine.

    On the one hand, the whole “trial by a jury of your peers” thing has worked pretty good for 220-plus years, and I like democracy and all, but gee whiz, I have to find a place to park, and wear a clean shirt, kvetch, whine, moan.

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  18. Jason T. said on February 25, 2009 at 10:21 am

    P.S.: Hank, next time, tell the judge you support mandatory death sentences, even in civil cases, for everyone, including the plantiffs.

    The 72 hours you spend “under observation” will be a small price to pay for never getting called again.

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  19. Jeff Borden said on February 25, 2009 at 10:31 am

    To quote the great John Cole of Balloon Juice, I come to national politics pre-disillusioned, but I was impressed with the address by President Obama. I’m scared to death of the twists and turns this economy is likely to take and worry that his interest in expanding the troop presence in Afghanistan could become his Vietnam. Yet I think he is the right man in the right place at the right time. He’s cooler than the other side of the pillow. . .reasoned and measured and professorial. . .and God knows he can communicate. What a difference between this address and anything W. did in similar circumstances.

    Meanwhile, the lack of bench strength among national Republicans was underscored by the terrible performance turned in by Bobby Jindal in the GOP response. I’ve no doubt this is a very bright and ambitious young man and he has a great life story to tell. But he was following a master communicator and chose to adopt a kind of hectoring, sing-song tone that had my wife and me laughing out loud. He’s a better speaker than Sarah Palin, of course, but where she has on-camera charisma to burn, Jindal is a black hole. That said, it’s certainly a pleasure to see a Republican spokesman who is not a chubby, older white male. Jindal will have time to polish and perfect his persona. He looks to have a much better upside than Palin, who not only seems to have learned nothing from her brief time in the spotlight, but is now blaming (yawn) the media for her woes.

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  20. vince said on February 25, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Nance, your get-out-of-jury-duty free card might have expired.
    Journalists are not getting automatically booted any more.
    I thought that would be my ticket to early excusal but it wasn’t. 2 years ago I was seated on a criminal trial (which fortunately lasted only 1 day.)

    Nothing will interrupt the train of thought of the fresh-out-of-law- school beginning prosecutor in her closing statement like a cell phone ringing…. from the jury box.
    My bad.
    I could have won a quickdraw contest at that instant against Clint Eastwood in the flash I turned off that ringer.

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  21. Jolene said on February 25, 2009 at 11:04 am

    “cooler than the other side of the pillow”

    I have the idea you’ve used that phrase before, but it’s new to me. I like it, and I agree w/ your analysis too. Obama is certainly not lacking in ambition, but it’s the right kind–ambition on behalf of the greater good. I’m fascinated to hear the details of his proposals and to see how successful he will be in gaining support for them.

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  22. del said on February 25, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Connie, my guess is that your husband’s mental health experience would make him an undesirable juror to a prosecutor because he’d be too understanding of the accused’s state of mind and unlikely to find the mens rea/scienter (i.e, bad intent) necessary to convict. Just my guess.
    Jury pools often don’t reflect the racial demographics of the county. A couple of years back, in Kent County (Grand Rapids MI) some guy picketed the courthouse because he believed that blacks were being systematically underrepresented in the jury pools. Court personnel painted him out to be a nut. Turns out he was right. There was a flaw in the county’s computer program. I think they apologized to him.
    Detroit’s Wayne County juries are about 85% white. Have no idea how that works.

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  23. Dorothy said on February 25, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Jason I’m dying to know – what part of Pittsburgh is your residence? I grew up in Wilkinsburg, moved to Turtle Creek when I got married, and then lived in Eighty Four (Washington County) for 10 years. And I don’t get the reference about 30 Rock since I’m not a viewer, but I sure know who Princess Leia is!!

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  24. del said on February 25, 2009 at 11:13 am

    The Princess Leia gag’s a hoot Jason. Here it is:

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  25. Jolene said on February 25, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Tomorrow night, President Obama will award Stevie Wonder the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for American Song at a White House concert, at which several artists in addition to Wonder will perform. (This site has a link on the left with a list of the performers.) The concert will be televised on PBS.

    Last year, Paul Simon was given this award, and the concert was fantastic. One of my favorite numbers was Jesse Dixon and Yolanda Adams singing “Gone at Last.” Worth listening to all the way to the end. Also worth noting that Dixon is 70 years old.

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  26. Gasman said on February 25, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Jason T.,
    The story may well be apocryphal, but Ted Nugent’s alleged method for avoiding the draft during the Viet Nam War would certainly get you excused from jury duty.

    Upon receiving your summons, cease bathing, brushing your teeth, changing your clothes, and – here’s the part that takes real commitment – stop undoing your garments when you relieve yourself. (Maybe you could put that last one off until the last couple of days.) You might need to sleep out in the yard during the whole process. Undoubtedly, a three day “vacation” for observational purposes would follow, but the experience could be parlayed into being excluded from the jury pool in perpetuity. At the very least, you would surely be given a wide berth on your way into the courthouse.

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  27. jeff borden said on February 25, 2009 at 11:36 am


    Amusing, isn’t it, that Terrible Ted, the rightwing poster boy, was once a sniveling hippy draft dodger willing to literally live in his own excrement rather than enter the service. Ah, well, we all change as we age. If Ted wants to run around evangelizing on behalf of guns and crossbows, that’s his right.

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  28. Gasman said on February 25, 2009 at 11:45 am

    From the Dana Milbank story:

    At a time of national emergency, when America needs the focused attention of contemplative and reflective lawmakers, they are dispatching rapid-fire thoughts in 140 characters or less.

    Some members called it a new age of transparency, a bold new frontier in democracy. But to view the hodgepodge of text messages sent from the House floor during the speech, it seemed as if Obama were presiding over a support group for adults with attention-deficit disorder.

    Indeed, the 140 character limit seems to be designed to ensure nearly total lack of meaningful content. Technophiles are all atwitter about Twitter, the flavor du jour. What will it be tomorrow?

    Interestingly, the majority of those cited in the article were Republicans. That may simply be an unintended random sampling, or it could be intentionally tilted on Milbank’s part. But given the Rs seeming lack of urgency in lending a hand solving our current economic crisis, Milbank’s ADD remark seemed quite apropos.

    One wonders what it will take to make them put down their toys and focus on the job at hand.

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  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 25, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Is there a support group for adults with ADD? Can i join?

    Look, a puppy . . .

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  30. paddyo' said on February 25, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I agree with Vince — in Denver, at least, they’re not tossing reporters/journalists out of jury pools. The last two times I was called, I was seated on juries. The most recent time, another journalist was on the same jury with me. And in post-trial chats with the defense lawyers (and sometimes prosecutors), they seemed to see it as a positive — that we were well-informed, thinking people who could consider the facts.

    Now maybe that’s some kind of indictment of the “quality” of jurors these days, in the minds of the lawyers anyway.

    BTW, hereabouts we have a “one-day, one-trial” rule for jury duty: If you’re called, you go to the City and County Building and wait in a big room to be called for a jury pool. If you don’t, or if they dismiss the remaining folks once they’ve got jurors enough for that day’s docket, you’re out of jury game for a year. Same if you ARE seated on a jury and hear a trial. One-and-done, for the year …

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  31. brian stouder said on February 25, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    What Julie said about saluting everyone who works in criminal justice, and has to face these horrors every day.

    A terrible event that we’ve all heard about is reported here

    An 11-year-old Pennsylvania boy blew away his father’s eight-months-pregnant fiancée – then calmly got on the bus and went to school, police and relatives said Saturday.

    The ice-cold nature of this is evident from the school bus detail, but another sentence that made me wince was this one:

    Cops said Jordan shot Houk once in the head sometime between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. with his youth-model 20-gauge shotgun – which he had used to win a turkey at a local shooting competition two weeks earlier.

    “youth model” 20-gauge shotgun?

    I’m sorry, and I don’t use this word often – but I genuinely hate firearms.

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  32. jeff borden said on February 25, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Whether you are seated or not largely depends on how many challenges are exercised by the attorneys. I was seated in a civil case relating to a traffic accident because they were down to the dregs of the jury pool.

    The lady in front of me broke into tears when she was seated, begging the judge for her release because she was part of a two-person company and could not afford to leave for the length of the trial. The judge coldly looked at her and told her that it would now be a one-person company. They then turned to me, the potential 12th juror. I was asked my profession. Journalist. I was asked if I had ever been involved in a traffic accident. Yes. A couple. I was asked if I had ever been a party to a lawsuit. Yes, I replied, a nuisance lawsuit filed by the driver of a car that hit ME, then turned around and sued me. I described the lawsuit in a very sarcastic manner, noting the driver had claimed to have been permanently injured and that his car had been totaled, yet I had watched him laughing and talking to his passenger and saw him drive the allegedly totalled car away. None of this mattered. They needed a juror and I was it. Two days of bullshit testimony and we found for the defendant. I was the foreman and had to keep my fellow jurors from busting on the plaintiff attorney, who was so terribly inept that my fellow jurors began calling him “Vinny,” as in “My Cousin Vinny.”

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  33. beb said on February 25, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I don’t know about twittering the non-SOTU SOTU address, seemed impolite to me, still being stuck in a room listening someone drone on about something, anything, would make we want to have solitair or tetris on my phone. I was never diagnoised as having Adult ADD, but I sure fit the profile. Our child definitely has it and I’m sur they got it from me.

    That Dana Milbank mentions only Republicans twittering seems part of the latest Republican meme that they’re all hip and up-to-date with the “intertubes,” and can twit with the best of them. I don’t know why they would bother. Every political blog in sight was live-blogging the speech. I think that’s more than enough commentary for both sides.

    I only listened to a minute or so of Jindal’s speech. He was talking about his personal history. I wondered then what his personal history had to do with things like budgets and national policy. Also he spoke worse than a Circuit City salesman. He’s like Sarah Palin in that ‘even their depths are shallow’ (Dorothy Parker?)

    The Nuge was a rock star back then, so of course he dressed in long hair and tattered clothes. That wasn’t because he was a liberal, its what rock stars wore. As for trying to gross his way out of the draft: Everyone back then had calculated that getting sent to Viet Nam was a quick trip to a coffin. Even Bush did not want to go. At least h8is daddu could get him into the national guard. Nugent had to find some other way. Personally I prefer Arlo Guthie’s solution, conviction for littering.

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  34. Connie said on February 25, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Ted Nugent was a sniveling hippy draft dodger? Wasn’t everybody? We can talk all we want about serving our country, and criticize W’s guard service, but as I remember getting out of going to Viet Nam was, back in the day, considered the RIGHT THING TO DO! It’s sort of like the racism in Huckleberry Finn: try to evaluate in light of the times.

    Remember too, my husband is a Viet Nam veteran, drafted at 19. Last fall when he was hospitalized the nurse taking his medical history asked him about previous surgeries. He told her his only previous surgery was when he was wounded in Viet Nam. She turned, looked him in the eye, and said “Thank you for your service.” I know that is not uncommon with today’s military members and veterans, but for a Viet Nam veteran it was a real surprise. And a first.

    My freshman year dorm had a large lobby TV room. I remember wall to wall crowds of both sexes in there for two very different events: Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs, and the draft lottery drawing, which did turn out to be the last one.

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  35. Kath said on February 25, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    When I was on jury duty one of my fellow pool members pretended to be reading a book entitled “Jury Nullification” and I’m sure he displayed it prominently during voir dire. Even being an attorney doesn’t get one off juries anymore. I have a friend who’s a public defender in Minneapolis, but lives in St. Paul. She was seated on a criminal jury, was elected foreman, and voted to convict. The prosecutor must have been very confident in the outcome to choose her.

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  36. jeff borden said on February 25, 2009 at 1:27 pm


    I was not trying to tar anyone who avoided service in Vietnam or, conversely, those who answered the call. I chose my words poorly.

    I was referring to the hypocrisy of a guy like the Nuge who went to great lengths to stay out of Vietnam later positioning himself as a gung-ho, gun and crossbow-wielding patriot who is the darling of the NRA and other assorted righty groups. He’s hardly alone. Most of the fervent backers of the war in Iraq never served either, starting with “Deadeye” Dick Cheney, who managed a remarkable five separate deferments to avoid Vietnam.

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  37. LA Mary said on February 25, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    The best description of W’s service I’ve read was “He flew a barstool in Houston for the duration. “

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  38. Dorothy said on February 25, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Connie – when we traveled back from Fort Benning at the end of January, after our son graduated from Basic Training, he was with us on the return home. (He’s National Guard so was not moving on to another Army location.) When we checked into the hotel on the way back, the woman at the front desk said “Thank you for your service!” to Josh as well. Josh mentioned that several people had done that before, when he was in uniform at the airport during his Christmas break. He admitted that it embarrassed him as he feels he hasn’t even done anything yet. But he was told he’d be deployed at some point, so perhaps then he won’t be embarrassed anymore.

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  39. mark said on February 25, 2009 at 2:32 pm


    That was a real knee-slapper.

    I love when people who have never even faced the prospect of compulsory military service demean the service of those who did.

    And what did you do for your country Mary? If a cowardly buffoon like W mustered the courage and skill to fly an F-102, somebody brave and smart like you must have done something really challenging and dangerous, right?

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  40. Dexter said on February 25, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Oh wow, man, another discussion morphed into a Viet Nam thread.
    I grew up hearing about Viet Nam from my grandmother who was against any US involvement “across” , period, from way back in the early 1960s. All my young life as a teen I wondered if I would have to go. Every day included a portion of that day thinking about this war, I was a paperboy and I read the paper, every word about the war, I was informed when I was 14, way more than my peers were.
    Like many of those peers, at age 19 I was drafted and I ended up in Viet Nam, but along the way I had considered pleading that I was a conscientious objector, but really, that was not gonna fly…I just accepted my fate and away I went to join a list of millions of US military personnel that did the same thing.
    Let me say this: if I had been in a room with two exit doors, one labeled “To Viet Nam” and one labeled “Draft Evasion Here”, I damn-sure would not have taken the door to the war. The thing is, I never found that door, or any window, or any way out of going that made sense…sure, I knew deserters who flew to Sweden, and I knew a guy who went to Toronto, but he had support there, an uncle who took him in and got him into school…I didn’t have a clue how to survive in Canada as a 20 year old military deserter.
    Sweden? That would have been something…since then I knew no one there, wasn’t hooked up in any way …what was I going to do in Sweden with no means of support?
    College here in the USA? No way…no money…so I was a working man and for the most part, we went and came back, dead or alive.

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  41. alex said on February 25, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Puhleeze, mark. Dubya never faced the prospect of compulsory military service. He did a plutocrat’s military service, and light duty at that.

    What’s got your hackles up anyhoo?

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  42. jeff borden said on February 25, 2009 at 3:00 pm


    The unit W. served in while with the Texas Air National Guard was dubbed a “champagne unit” because it drew primarily the sons of the wealthy and privileged. This was not limited to Republicans. The son of former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas was also a member as was John Connally Jr. and the son of John Tower. There were also seven Dallas Cowboys players in 147th Fighter Group, where they were trained to fly fighters already out of service.

    This is not to say that W. is a coward. Far from it. It takes some serious cojones to strap yourself into a jet and blast into the sky. And, to be scrupulously fair, he cowboyed up in a way that most of his GOP peers never did, particularly the loudest and most obstreperous of the chickenhawks. Cheney, Ashcroft, Lott, DeLay, Perle, Woflowitz, Feith, Bolton, Giuliani, Hastert and McConnell never served a single freaking day in uniform. The lotion boys in the media are just as guilty: Hume, Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly never felt the need, either.

    LA Mary undoubtedly is refering to the charges that W. spent much of his time in TANG not actually being in TANG. There are conflicting accounts, which Dan Rather would likely note, since he was cashiered after reporting on this issue.

    Given the benefit of the doubt, it is fair to say that W. did not shirk his duty. By the same token, there was no way he was ever going to be piloting a fighter over Vietnam. Never. Ever. Less than 1% of National Guard enlistees ever were called into combat.

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  43. whitebeard said on February 25, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Julie Robinson, I’ll see your table radio weapon and raise you a pickled aorta for gruesome. As a young reporter in The Soo, I covered a murder trial and the reporter’s table was also the evidence table. The sailor on trial had stabbed his girl friend in the aorta (you could see the knife wound in the aorta sitting in a large jar, inches from my hand).
    I imagine that it prepared me for a film appreciation course at McGill University in which required viewing was a movie called Autopsy, aptly titled, and for reporting on a car recovery off a dock in The Soo when the driver’s door was opened and out popped the bloated driver’s remains.

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  44. LA Mary said on February 25, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    They didn’t draft women then and since I objected to the war I did not volunteer. I knew plenty of people who were drafted, though. Many. I knew plenty of people who would have loved to go to the national guard instead of the army infantry, but it was not an option open to many people. I’m old enough to remember that era very well and to know people who were killed and people who came back very much changed, not for the better.

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  45. Jason T. said on February 25, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Dorothy! You were a Creeker!

    I live just across the river from McKeesport, in West Mifflin on the Dravosburg border.

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  46. nancy said on February 25, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Whitebeard, you’re showing your age. Nowadays reporters rarely get that close to the corpse, but back in the day it wasn’t uncommon for them to get called into consultation on the probable cause of death. One of my favorite Mike Royko columns was on the last days of the old Chicago coroner’s office, a favorite patronage job for the sleaziest ward heelers. These hacks favored the same clothing style (fedoras, flashy pinky rings, cigars), and loved to get their pictures in the paper, which explains their friendliness to reporters. He said a favorite shot was of them holding up a piece of the victim’s clothing, sticking a finger through the tear made by knife or bullet. One called a press conference to announce, after a corpse was found, sealed in a 55-gallon drum at the bottom of a lake somewhere, “This is the work of a murderer.”

    I think the closest I ever got was a homicide where the victim had been surprised by a shotgun-wielding assailant in his own front yard. The guy’s sitting in a lawn chair, the killer pulls to the curb, gets out, racks the slide, kaboom and leaves the same way. The body was covered, but the blood-splattered lawn chair was right there. One of those woven-nylon things. So…poignant.

    Yes, folks, I am free of service for another year, just dropping in to say hi. Full report tomorrow.

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  47. jeff borden said on February 25, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    LA Mary,

    Colin Powell has spoken very eloquently about the chasm between those who served and those who ducked because they could. You could take the path of W. and the other kids of the wealthy and privileged and wangle your way into the Guard. Or you could do what I did, which was maintain a decent grade point average in college and hope the draft ended before your school days did. I had a very low draft number, so I was definitely in line, but I graduated three months after the draft was abolished.

    This was patently unfair. As a child of the middle-class, I had the resources to help me stay in school. Those without such resources trooped off to Southeast Asia when their draft notices arrived.

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  48. Julie Robinson said on February 25, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    No pickled aorta, but the brain material on the radio and the gruesome photos of the victim were more than enough for me.

    The trial did have an OJ kind of moment. The victim insisted he had been assualted by a man, but the defendant was female. At one point, the prosecutor asked her to stand up and remove her wig, and y’know, she did look like a man.

    Unfortunately the victim was also well into dementia and gave three different answers to every question, depending on how the attornies led him. We all felt she was guilty but couldn’t convict based on the evidence and his testimony.

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  49. Dave said on February 25, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I was released from jury duty because I was told I knew too much about correct safety procedures, for a drunken driving jury trial. Guess they only wanted unsafe people on the jury.

    Nancy, no mention of the most recent acquaintance’s unexpected departure?

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  50. jeff borden said on February 25, 2009 at 3:25 pm


    I tripped over my first dead body. They were breaking me in as a night police reporter at the Columbus Dispatch, where my hours were 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., so the outgoing reporter was showing me the ropes. We drove to the scene of an accident where a car with a stuck accelerator –a massive, early 1970s Caddy– had crashed through the brick wall of an apartment building. No one in the apartment was hurt, but the driver apparently suffered a broken neck in the collision. His body was covered but lying on the ground near the car, where the fire department had set up some blindingly brilliant klieg lights to bathe the scene in white light. I did not see it as I walked toward the building and stumbled. When I glanced down, I realized I’d tripped over the dead dude’s legs. A fire chief who witnessed my stumble said something to the effect, “Don’t worry about that. He don’t mind.”

    Let’s not even get into the joy of covering the discovery of a body left to rot in a closed apartment in the stifling heat of summer or pulling up to a building fire and smelling the fried flesh in the air or looking at the gelatinous mess that once was a body popping up in the Hoover Reservoir, which was a popular dumping spot for drug-dealing rival motorcycle gangs.

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  51. nancy said on February 25, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Nancy, no mention of the most recent acquaintance’s unexpected departure?

    My brain is still a little nap-fogged. I don’t follow.

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  52. MichaelG said on February 25, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    I’ll second LA Mary. There is no evidence that Bush was anywhere but in the wind during the last year of his “service”. Everybody knew in those days that the Guard was for those who had juice. For my money he demonstrated his cowardice on 09-11-2001 when he spent the day cowering in a bunker in Nebraska instead of heading immediately back to DC from Florida.

    For Mark’s record I did two tours in Vietnam. About half of that time was in the field. There were plenty of bodies strewn around for one’s viewing.

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  53. whitebeard said on February 25, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I took a pass on officially moving to the U.S. from The Soo because I was working at an American radio station, WSOO, and the move included free plane fare to join the Korean Conflict, but I did serve in the Canadian militia.
    The powers-that-be discovered that I could type so I quickly became the orderly room lance corporal, corporal, sergeant, staff sergeant and warrant officer in succession. I arranged a lot of weekend night compass exercises, attending combat training and weapons handling classes, but I really missed being able to tear down the engine on a deuce and a half.
    I transferred to one of the militia units in Montreal but my being named night city editor at the Montreal Star during the troubles didn’t leave any evenings free for the militia.

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  54. jeff borden said on February 25, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Subject changer:

    Aside from Barack Obama, who was the big winner last night? I tend to agree with Ben Smith of Politico, who says it was Mitt Romney.

    Bobby Jindal blew it, big-time, with only Rush Limbaugh defending his speech. Ever other conservative commentator I’ve found has either damned it with faint praise or just admitted it was stone, cold awful. Jindal may be a Rhodes scholar, but he came off as a condescending dork last night.

    Coupled with the fading Sarah Palin, who finally paid her back taxes on the per diems she pocketed for working at home, and Michael Steele, who has said so many stupid things since his elevation to the head of the RNC that it requires a computer to track, it’s looking very likely that a traditional white male will be the GOP standard-bearer. Romney looks, acts and speaks like an audio-animatronic device, but he has a lot of money and is kissing all the correct conservative patoots including the loons at CPAC.

    Ahh, but will the Evangelicals get behind a Mormon???

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  55. mark said on February 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Jindahl was pretty awful, but only because of a weird affectation used for his speech/chat.

    Jindahl will be fine. I remember a much higher profile “keynote” speech by a then Governor Clinton, who droned on and on and took a fair amount of abuse for it. He learned and recovered.

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  56. Jeff Borden said on February 25, 2009 at 5:35 pm


    Funny you should mention that. David Corn at Mother Jones used the Clinton comparison just as you did, but said the real comeback began when Bubba was booked on the Carson show. Corn is suggesting Jindal get himself on Leno –quick– before the SNL parodies begin.

    I’m teaching public speaking and critical thinking this semester for the fourth time. I’m no oratorical expert, but it looked very much to me like Jindal had not practiced enough and certainly had not given his address in front of any advisers. Any basic speech coach would have warned him about his sing-song delivery and his condescending tone. Talking up the Katrina response opens up an enormous can of ugly, squirming worms since that is clearly the beginning of the end of the Bush Administration. A good coach would have waved that one away. Even the walk to the microphone was a mess. He should have been seated behind his desk, exuding the power of his gubernatorial office and projecting a sense of calm authority.

    I’d have been more impressed if he’d broken with G.O.P. orthodoxy, but until the party gets another kick or six in the stones at election time, it’s probably folly to expect some new thinking and fresh dialogue beyond “cut taxes good, all government bad.” The base won’t allow it.

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  57. mark said on February 25, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    I also remember Clinton on Carson. He let himself be the butt of the jokes for a few minutes and it worked well.

    Change parties and there may be a spot for you as a “high ranking advisor” for the Jindahl machine.

    Jindahl played down to his audience. “Condescending” is pretty accurate. Big mistake and one Obama doesn’t make.

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  58. LA Mary said on February 25, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    The walk up to the microphone was weird looking He looked like a marionette. I think maybe his speech pattern was some hybrid Louisiana/Hindi accent. Even though he was born in the US, his parents probably spoke Hindi at home. That’s what my ear picked up, at least. I hear all sorts of variations here at the hospital with nurses who moved to some remote part of the US because a hospital sponsored their greencard. Chinese/Texan, Philipino/South Carolinian, Russian/Vermonter; the variations are endless.

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  59. Gasman said on February 25, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    jeff bordon,

    This is not to say that W. is a coward. Far from it. It takes some serious cojones to strap yourself into a jet and blast into the sky. And, to be scrupulously fair, he cowboyed up in a way that most of his GOP peers never did, particularly the loudest and most obstreperous of the chickenhawks.

    Let’s not over emphasize W’s actions as being in any way heroic. What did he do? He got to fly cool jets in the relative safety of stateside duty. He got his choice of military perks without much actual danger. No one shot at him. Then, when flying cool jets became boring and cut into his drinking and skirt chasing, he went AWOL. Not only that, he was chickenshit enough to accept money for work he did not do.

    W is a fucking coward, no ifs ands or buts.

    You seem to imply that the only service to one’s country that matters a damn is military. I’ve got news for you; there are many, many other ways to serve your country. Police, firemen, teachers, nurses, etc. all provide services essential to our society and all are undervalued. I am not denigrating the military, but there are other ways to serve our country.

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  60. nancy said on February 25, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    This may be off-base, but recall, too, that Jindal is a “traditionalist” Catholic, i.e. orthodox, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about those folks from reading Amy Welborn’s blog, it’s that they (and not Amy, I should add) all have a very large dollop of Teacher’s Pet in them. They profess humility in biblical language, but many of them are convinced they are the smartest people in any room you could name. See, among others: Novak, Robert; Neuhaus, Fr. Richard; Hanssen, Robert; Roberts, John; Scalia, Antonin, et al. That would explain a lot of Jindal’s tone; he just knows more than you, and doesn’t mind letting you know.

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  61. Jolene said on February 25, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    I think maybe his speech pattern was some hybrid Louisiana/Hindi accent.

    Jindal’s normal speaking style is much faster and, I have to say, not very appealing. I listened to him on Meet the Press on Sunday and, quite apart from what he had to say, found the experience unpleasant. He may come back politically, but, on style points alone, he would lose to Obama.

    You are right, Nancy, that he is one of the “smartest guy in the room” types. He’s a Rhodes scholar, and his professional history involves more wonkishness that oratory. He’s also, I believe, a creationist.

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  62. Scout said on February 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    About last night: Al Giordano’s is the best analysis of Obama’s triumph I’ve seen anywhere on the web, notable for this particular tidbit –

    >Regarding health care, the President boomed, “we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.”:

    “Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

    “This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American.”

    I didn’t hear a single TV pundit last night or today pick up on what Obama is really up to here. It’s in the bold type: “This budget builds on these reforms.” He was talking about the budget he is about to propose. The next steps in creating national universal health care will come not in separate legislation which requires 60 out of 99 US Senate votes, but, rather, as part of the budget bill that, according to Congressional rules, needs simply a majority – 50 votes – to be passed and which cannot be subject to opposition filibuster.

    That was exactly the point in the speech when Senate Republicans got those long unhappy looks on their faces. He had just ripped from them their only obstructionist power. They shifted nervously in their seats and scrunched their “holy crap” scowls. Skilled politicians all, they knew their goose had just been cooked. It was at that point in the speech that, after a couple of minutes of coming to grips with the new rules, they began to make a show of applause and standing ovations for the cameras. If you can’t beat Obama, join him. It was a beautiful play to watch.

    I didn’t realize this any of this, and it would certainly account for the change in attitude from the stonefaced Pubs about halfway through.

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  63. moe99 said on February 25, 2009 at 8:08 pm


    why are you spelling Jindal’s name with an ‘h?’ I don’t think I’ve seen that in the media.

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  64. moe99 said on February 25, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I’m not being published from my current site, but also wanted to mention that Jindal is an exorcist:

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  65. Connie said on February 25, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Today at staff meeting I introduced a new employee and asked her to say a few words about herself. When she said she had just retired from the Air Force the room broke into applause.

    Moe99, following up on an earlier comment: Lourdes?

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  66. moe99 said on February 25, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Connnie: Yeah, I was an Eagle for a year. 1969-70

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  67. beb said on February 25, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Anyone interested in reading about W’s National Guard problems ought to go to
    The AWOL Project
    which has collected a huge amount of data and analysis showing that Bush walked away from the Texas National Guard with a year remaining on his contract. He walked away without permission or notification. And one of the things about his National Guard service is that he stopped flying those jets before he refused to take his annual physical. There’s no explanation why. Things like that cry out for explanation. Was he too drunk too fly, too stoned or had he lost his nerve.

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  68. basset said on February 25, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    and he didn’t fly them all that well, either… before he quit he was pulled out of the F-102 and assigned to fly a T-33 trainer, then put back into a simulator, a mock-up of the aircraft cockpit which never leaves the ground.

    meanwhile… just got in from seeing “Nixon/Frost,” we were the only ones in the theater.

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  69. Gasman said on February 26, 2009 at 12:19 am

    jeff borden,
    Sorry that I misspelled your name earlier. I’ll blame my rapid, but ham-fisted typing and inadequate proofreading. That was even before I started drinking this evening!

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  70. mark said on February 26, 2009 at 1:20 am


    I spelled it that way because I thought it was spelled that way. I was wrong.

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  71. Gasman said on February 26, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Hey, I spelled it that way too, but I’ve already established that I can’t spell. Maybe I got it from you. I could have sworn there was an H in there.

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  72. Dexter said on February 26, 2009 at 3:37 am

    The other day I was telling someone about my boyhood when I was the Spelling Bee champ of my grade school class…and then discovered I had been spelling the thing you stick on your head “helmut”. That’s a German name people name their kids, isn’t it? I meant to write “helmet”.
    The weather broke, it reached 49F here Thursday, and I finally was able to take at least a short bicycle ride —I went to the local medical center to pay a bill, and I ventured onto the scales in the hallway…I have lost 40 pounds exactly since last June. So how, you may ask? I quit ice cream and candy bars, for one thing, and switched to bran flakes and skim milk for breakfast instead of bacon and eggs and buttered toast with jam…that sort of thing…and it’s working, so far…hey, as long as they don’t take my coffee and tea away, I can do damn-near anything!

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  73. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 26, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Beb — i thought we’d kicked this question to death months ago. As a still mildly Bush partisan, i think the evidence is fairly clear, if not definitive: Dubya got the yips, a not unknown phenomenon among jet pilots then and now. You basically have to be able to convince yourself, everytime you get in them, that you aren’t doing something utterly insane trying to fly this marble on a plate with absolute precision, else you’ll be strawberry jam on toast in an interrupted heartbeat, possibly taking a neighborhood with mommies and kids below you to screaming death along with.

    Then something happens. A flameout, a stall on landing, even just a near-wobble that ends with a three-point landing. And . . . you can’t do it. You can’t get back in the plane. Your squadron mates, your CO, they know the score, there are ways to try to re-trick your psyche into goofing your way back into the cockpit, but they don’t always work. SOP is to put you on some sort of detached duty, and easier airframe to try again later, and for not a few, that doesn’t work either. You just can’t convince yourself it’s time to strap yourself to a burning candle and light the fuse.

    This may sound hopelessly wussy to many, but recall we’re talking here, as in most cases of “the yips,” of someone who had flown these for a hundred, hundreds of hours. The problem is that they had overcome the rational desire to not do an insane thing, and in so doing had learned much about the finer details of the insanity. Once your brain snaps back to ground-bound ways of thinking, it is very, very hard to pull it out of shape into fighter jock mode once again. Generally, when the usual tactics have failed, the services are very unwilling to “order” you back into a seat, unless you ask for a gig flying a big, slow, prop job supply craft because you still love flying, it’s just the jet fighter stuff that has you by the pit of the stomach. But to endanger a pricey craft and those moms and kids on the ground . . . if you’ve got “the yips” and they won’t be exorcised by the standard means, then they’ll quietly lay you aside.

    Fighter pilots generally do not “out” someone who got the yips — because it’s generally acknowledged, but almost never, ever talked about openly, that it could happen to you tomorrow. Who knows? The most definitive evidence to me that this explains Dubya is that there is no evidence he has flown one Piper Cub, one plane of any sort after his last recorded T-33 attempt. Once you’ve flown jets, a la Capt. Sully, many tend to try to fly something, somewhere, until they pry the pilot’s license from you in the home — or you never go near a cockpit again. Not saying every last one of the latter are those bit by the “yips,” but darn near it.

    And it almost goes without saying, those who have been so affected often go through a vicious period of self-doubt and anxiety the next few years, wondering why they couldn’t make their hands stop shaking and their hearts stop racing. Self-medicating behavior is quite common. It takes a while to get over.

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  74. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 26, 2009 at 8:06 am

    BTW, here’s the relevant section from Wikipedia’s take, with one comment added here by me [in brackets].

    Final flights

    Flight logs released in September 2004 in response to a lawsuit (see below) showed that Bush, who had been flying solo in the F-102A Delta Dagger, an interceptor, for most of his career, flew nine times in T-33 trainers in February and March 1972 — nearly twice as many times as he had flown in T-33s in the prior 18 months.[7] He also used a flight simulator, and was heavily focused on flying by instruments.[8] The logs also show that in March and April 1972, Bush twice needed multiple tries to land the F102 fighter.[9] [This is after over 300 hours of unmarred flight time on the books.]

    The final two entries of Bush’s official flight logs show him being assigned to work as an instructional pilot in late May 1972 at a Texas Air National Guard base. But Bush left for Alabama in mid-May (see next section) and his pay records show he wasn’t paid for any work on the two dates of the instructional pilot assignment. The logs have a code indicating the assignments were eventually deleted from his official records.[7]

    Jeff TMMO adds — after April 1972, he never held a control stick again. Best way, says yer average CO, to explain not putting you in an aircraft? Don’t go to your next physical; everyone knows you can’t fly without clearance from the docs.

    On to dissecting the new health care plan — are we trying to get to single-payer an inch at a time, or does Obama’s team really not believe in S/P? For what we’re putting into GM alone, if we put it to Medicare-model based semi-S/P, we’d solve their biggest accounting problem, and spend no more money, maybe less.

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  75. del said on February 26, 2009 at 8:18 am

    We didn’t really kick this one to death, though we talked about it some. You said before Jeff that GWB suffered some sort of psychological meltdown called “the yips” but of course that is a matter that only the man himself will ever know the truth about.

    I’m still pondering the Jindal exorcism article. Pretty incredible.

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  76. Kirk said on February 26, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Yes, thanks for passing along the Bobby Jindal-and-the-exorcism stuff, moe99. Maybe he could use one.

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  77. brian stouder said on February 26, 2009 at 8:31 am

    What Kirk and Del said; great article, moe.

    This passage struck me –

    in an essay Jindal wrote in 1994 for the New Oxford Review, a serious right-wing Catholic journal, Jindal narrated a bizarre story of a personal encounter with a demon, in which he participated in an exorcism with a group of college friends. And not only did they cast out the supernatural spirit that had possessed his friend, Jindal wrote that he believes that their ritual may well have cured her cancer.

    So when he was 23 he was stupid enough to write about this bizarre college-days experience (when other luminaries were fooling with expensive German-made bongs, no doubt)

    Makes me think that the Palin choice was much smarter than we thought (at least to begin with)

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  78. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 26, 2009 at 8:39 am

    And i knew lots of folk in my early 20s who would get stoned and then do Ouija boards . . . which i wouldn’t and won’t do, because i’m not sure anyone really understands what they’re tapping into, subconscious or ethereal or spiritual. All i know is that whenever people tell me about their time “on the board,” it’s always creepy and awful stuff, not “this is how you will find happiness” or “this is when your dreams will be fulfilled” or “stop doing that and you will find peace.”

    I guess that makes me a semi-Jindal, but you could insult me a whole lot worse!

    And i’d still love to provoke a truly wide-ranging discussion of various approaches to reaching Medicare-model single payer health insurance . . .

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  79. basset said on February 26, 2009 at 8:43 am

    well, you have to respect the fact that GWB was able to fly a high-performance plane for at least awhile, whether he lost his nerve or not… that was the first time I’ve heard about “the yips” in an aviation context, though, I thought it was just a golf term used when high-level players get too mentally worked up to putt.

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  80. del said on February 26, 2009 at 8:54 am

    I think that I may have some understanding or insight about what people may be tapping into “subconscious, ethereal or spiritual” when they do Ouija boards. Bullshit.

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  81. Connie said on February 26, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Ditto. Ouija boards, demons, believing in any god, all Bullshit. Just my opinion. Y’all have flamed me and offered to pray for me before so go to it.

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  82. LA Mary said on February 27, 2009 at 11:49 am

    It could have been the yips. It could have been his coke habit. It could have been he was drunk. The yips would not explain the avoided physical. Maybe he was just a crappy pilot.
    Remember when some woman columnist thought he looked “hot” in his flightsuit at that Mission Accomplished photo op?

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