Jury Duty Cuts Will’s speech short

# 318, April 26, 2004

COLUMBUS: Did you ever serve jury duty? Where you live they probably do it different, but for Municipal Court here in Columbus they call about 60 innocent folks together for two weeks of civic duty, for which you are paid $20 a day. They have about 15 judges handling all kinds of cases from drunk-driving and shop-lifting to husband-beating. Most of these perpetrators (alleged), and their accomplices (defense attorneys) wisely leave their fate in the hands of the learned judges.

But for the benefit of the few who choose to bypass the judge, sort of, they keep a room full of presumed peers ready to answer the call of a random draw. You wonder though about the intelligence of a “party of the first part” who wants his future decided by eight everyday people whose knowledge of legal jurisprudence derived from years of the O. J. Simpson and Perry Mason television shows.

Every day one or two of the judges dropped in for a spell, to educate us about the real world of juries and to thank us for our public service and patriotism. They told funny stories about cases they had tried, and let us get to know them as regular human beings, at least as regular as anyone can be who is up for re-election every six years.

On the next to last day I volunteered to spin a few yarns for the jury pool, as kind of an after-lunch speaker, and they accepted. I told ’em that many times I had entertained folks who paid to be there, and I had spoken at a number of benefits for free, but this was the first time an audience was being paid $20 to hear me. Of course I wasn’t the one paying them, the taxpayers were. If it was coming out of my pocket I might have been more selective. At $20 each, five or six is about all I could afford. And, given a choice some of those might have demanded at least $50 to stay and listen.

They seemed to like my little offerings, but I felt handicapped compared to the judges. See, while I included the usual political news of the day from Congress, I felt compelled, in case I was to get picked on a jury, to skip all lawyer jokes, and right there that knocks a potential B+ speech down to no better than a C-. Of course finishing sooner, as any speaker will tell you, can sometimes raise you back up to a B. But I sure didn’t want to risk any case being tossed out because a comedian/juror demonstrated poor taste in legal humor.

In other courtroom news, Michael Jackson has changed lawyers. Does that seem strange to you, changing lawyers? Based on my vast experience with the legal profession (two weeks worth), I would suggest the lawyers stay the same, and Michael do some modest changing.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“…there’s a famous case being tried [here in London, England] where a fellow had swindled through fake stock transactions the people out of ten million dollars. They just give him fourteen years so fast that it took all the Americans’ breath away and all they have talked about today is English justice compared to ours. It’s the consensus of opinion of all of them here [for the Disarmament Conference] that if it had been at home he would have gone into vaudeville or the Senate.

None of the habus corpusing and suspended sentences or appealing it when you commit a crime over here. You just wake up surrounded by a small space. Our delegation ought to be over here studying British justice. Our battleships are not harming us near as much as court delays, corruption and shyster lawyers.” DT #1092, Jan. 24, 1930

Weekly Comments: Attorney Gen. Ashcroft testifies, appears “Relaxed”

# 317,     April 15, 2004

COLUMBUS: You might remember, just a month ago I told you I sent a book to John Ashcroft (Weekly Comments, March 11). Well, I got a letter back from him, a lovely note, and it shocked me. I figured by the time they investigated the fellow that sent it, and the parcel cleared through x-rays and all kinds of detectors for weapons of mass destruction, it would be late summer. But their screening process has apparently improved since 2001, at least in speed.

He probably got thousands of little gifts and get-well cards, and I appreciate the time he took to reply personally. Now, I figure it was mainly his secretary…, I sure hope he didn’t pull an agent off a terrorist investigation to lick envelopes.

Mr. Ashcroft won’t mind if I show you what he wrote me in the opening paragraph: “Thank you for the most kind expression of concern regarding the serious health challenges which have occupied me during the last several weeks. The best wishes, prayers, and good intentions of friends across America have inspired me beyond words. Your thoughtfulness in sending a copy of Ether and Me or “Just Relax” is appreciated.” He added some more kind words of thanks, and signed it “John”.

He seems to have recovered from the surgery. You saw him testify to the 9/11 Commission a day or so ago, and any pained expression was caused by the line of questions and not by the scar.

This is income tax day. I finished my return yesterday, and it looks like I’ll get a small refund. With gas at $1.90, it’ll cover about five fill ups.

If you want to see several authentic quotes on Taxes click on “Quotes”, then “Taxes”.

Here’s one quote: “The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.” WA #17, April 8, 1923

President Bush made a speech on the war, and then answered questions from news reporters. From the tone of their questions, I couldn’t tell if they listened to the speech. It’s been tough this month in Iraq. Our men and women over there are fighting to protect us, even if we don’t realize it.

We can all thank and congratulate Phil Mickelson. By winning the Masters golf tournament he tossed a monkey off his back, and we all got a new, and deserving, champion to cheer. He loves to play at Augusta; maybe he’ll make it fifty years the way Arnold Palmer did.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“They are pretty bad, these big wars over Commerce. They kill more people. But one over religion is really the most bitter.” WA # 350, Sept. 8, 1929

(If you switch the two parties, and substitute bin Laden for John Dillinger, this is a great quote, exactly 70 years later.) “The Republicans coming out pretty strong now against the administration. Looks like if the Democrats don’t get Dillinger, they may lose this Fall’s election.” DT #2412, April 26, 1934

“The minute one side makes a speech, the humorously called ‘strategists’ on the other side go into a huddle to pick it apart, which all don’t mean a thing. There is not a voter in America that twenty-four hours after any speech was made could remember two sentences in it. Politicians amuse more people than they interest.” DT 1887, Aug. 22, 1932

Weekly Comments: Congratulations to Connecticut; Questions about Comedy Month

# 316, April 7, 2004

COLUMBUS: Connecticut today is the basketball capital of the country. When your college boys whip everyone from the Pacific to the Atlantic Coast, and then the next night your coeds finish the sweep, well it gives you the right to crow. The U Conn celebration included that new trend for college revelry, burning a few cars in the street. I guess some nut figured, if it’s done in Fallujah, why not in Storrs.

And you’ve got to give Sports Illustrated some applause. We’re always rubbing it in about the SI cover jinx, but this time they had it right, way back in November.

This is National Humor Month. Nobody but a humorist would claim a month with April 15 in the middle of it as the ideal time for comedy, mirth and glee. Sure, April can be National Humor Month, but start it on the 16th. Make it Humor Half-Month.

I read where a professor at Johns Hopkins University found that Humor “reduces stress, anxiety, tension, depression and anger”. Yes, April 16 is definitely the day it’s needed most. Ron Berk also says humor will “improve your mood, increase self-esteem, and promote a sense of empowerment.” Now after you empty your pockets to pay your taxes, under penalty of prison, why, you may still have a “mood”, and maybe some “esteem”. But any “sense of empowerment” will be pert near squashed.

I hope to have more for you on Humor Month before the month ends.

I kid the IRS, but if there’s another country where you’d rather pay your taxes, your export can probably be arranged. Tax time can be disheartening…, even if we all pay what we owe we’ll still be short $400 Billion.

Happy Easter. (I think the Supreme Court will still let me say that.) Whatever religious day you want to celebrate will get no argument from me. Or even no religion, go ahead and celebrate. Just so it doesn’t involve burning a car.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Of all the cockeyed things we got in this country at the present time, it’s some of our judges, and courts, and justices.” DT #1374, Dec. 18, 1930

“I believe I discovered a way to aid preachers in getting people to church. Publish their pictures in the papers every Monday, instead of just on the day after Easter. There is no reason why people should have to wait from one Easter to another.” DT #836, April 1, 1929

“I bet any Sunday could be made as popular at church as Easter is if you made `em fashion shows, too. The audience is so busy looking at each other that the preacher just as well recite Gunga Din. We will do anything, if you just in some way turn it into a show.” DT #2718, April 22, 1935