Happy ‘It’s Not President’s Day’ Day

It’s not President’s Day. I know, I know, the White Sales say differently, so do the five car dealerships I just passed on Route 44. But, it’s not, because there’s no such holiday as President’s Day. It’s just Congress’ way of making Washington’s birthday fit a three day weekend.(Really – see Section 6103(a) of Title 5 of the United States Code).


Washington’s birthday was a major holiday in the U.S. long before the Civil War, it was formalized as a Federal holiday in the 1880’s, it took an act of Congress in the late 1960’s to muddle the waters.

There was a push to move holidays to the Monday schedule we now enjoy. Given the proximity of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, Illinois tried to roll Lincoln’s Birthday into the already celebrated Washington’s Birthday Federal Holiday.

Since this new holiday, giving us all a three day weekend in the middle of February, would celebrate two prominent former presidents it was naturally enough labeled ‘President’s Day’.

Who would argue with a day devoted to Washington and Lincoln? Well, Virginia in the mid-1960s for one. The late unpleasantness between the States was only a hundred years old and Virginia didn’t like the idea of a usurper from Illinois sharing the spotlight with its most visible son. Virginia blocked the proposed bill in the House of Representatives in the discussion stage. It never passed.

The third Monday of February was designated Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday remains as it was – a state by state optional holiday. It has never been a Federal holiday.

Interestingly, Presidents since the 1968 Act don’t seem in a hurry to correct those who refer to President’s Day, opting instead to embrace the all inclusive, let’s celebrate all the Presidents Day. As in, it’s a day celebrating all 45 of us (or does Grover Cleveland get to celebrate twice?), because, hey, all President’s are created equal.

It has become the equivalent of ‘every kid gets a trophy’ – except most kids deserve it. Take, for instance:


Warren G. Harding, he gets a trophy even though he wandered around behind the bench picking daisies while the others played;


William H. Harrison, he only showed up for two practices and one game, but he wanted to be there;


James Buchanan, John Tyler, and Franklin Pierce …. even though after election they were the other team’s most valuable player . . .

Could do this all day…. but that would be a waste of a nice, sunny, Washington’s Birthday .

The 11th hour of the 11th Day …


Today is Armistice Day.  It’s still celebrated in one manner or the other around the world, mostly, unsurprisiww123ngly, by the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, last vestiges of the British Empire that they are.

Dwight Eisenhower changed Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day in 1954, though it took decades to sort it out (On the 11th? On the Monday closest? What about the 27 states that already had Armistice Day in their holiday playbook?).

Eisenhower noted that The War to End All Wars hadn’t and Armistice Day had taken on a different meaning,

“… Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the…

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The Box


Someone, somewhere, sometime last week asked me to explain ‘plea bargaining’. My first attempt was fairly pathetic and I was about to bag it with a ‘I can’t talk about it’ sigh of self pity when the perfect image hit me – the box. Then the whole thing fell into place and it goes like this:

When you are held in pre-trial detention, in the absence of bail and most forms of common decency – the ‘back stairs justice system’ I oft times talk of – plea negotiations are surreal. Cut off from family, friends, potential witnesses and access to files and, well, evidence, it’s pretty much like playing poker without being allowed to look at your cards.

My plea ‘negotiations’ began with “Okay, hey, they may convene a Grand Jury and try to get an indictment, but if you get ahead of it, save them the time and trouble…

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Speaking of Royals . . .


In honor of the birth of yet another royal baby – a discussion between William Hanlin and General McClellan concerning the French princes on McClellan’s staff – and royalty in America:

. . . the door swung open and three men, two in magnificently tailored uniforms, the other dressed like a private, strode into the room.

Philippe_d'Orleans_Comte_de_Paris_1862McClellan was on his feet in an instant, moved to them with hand extended. He shook hands with them in turn while uttering a string of French greetings.

The result of all that was a taxing of my rusty French and my introduction to three surprising additions to McClellan’s staff – the Prince de Joinville and his nephews, the Duc de Chartes, and the Comte de Paris. Three princes of the House of Orleans.

They left us in heightened moods, a standing invitation to a HD_PrinceRobertD'Orleansnight at The Willard, sore shoulders from their back…

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The Ice Cream Truck and Baltimore


What happened to Freddie Gray? I have no idea. Obviously. I do, however, have an inkling. As would anyone ever transported by police, sheriffs, marshals, Correctional Officers, or any one else in law enforcement who transports more than one prisoner at a time.

In Connecticut, the DOC transports inmates with court dates to local jails for parceling out to the courts. They use buses and vans. Connecticut State Marshals move inmates from jails to the courts. They use the Ice Cream Truck. AKA, the Plea Bargain Express.

The Ice Cream Truck is exactly what it sounds like, it is one of these:

icecreamtruck no

Turned into one of these:


A squat, tinny, dark truck, split into two sections by a sheet metal wall etched with  graffiti going back to first Bush Administration. Low metal benches run along both sides; the roof is about three and a half feet high. Inmates are manacled together…

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Adventures in Writing #342, The Underwear Bandit


A metal table, headphones on listening to the Red Sox, flying through an early chapter of The Ceremony of Innocence, I was oblivious to my surroundings. For a solid ten minutes before two bags of potato chips, a box of Slim Jim’s, and a bag of Tang landed on the edges of my college ruled notebook.

I looked up at a guy named John – white, short, black hair, always sporting a half grin, “I need ya,’ Counselor,” he rasped – he always rasped, the residue(s) of years of cigarettes and pot and crack and …

The_Underpant_BanditsPen down, I surveyed the riches before me – in six months of pre-trial detention (Connecticut’s term of art for keeping men convicted of no crime in 22 1/2 hour a day lockdown) I had lost 40 pounds on the ‘regular’ DOC diet. This stash was impressive, the question was how much time was it…

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Jailhouse Lawyers, Part One


My first contact with a jailhouse lawyer, amazingly, did not occur until a good three months into the netherworld of the DOC. Netherworld being a trip to court. A mainstay of the ‘backstairs justice system’ the court trip is something straight out of hell. My average court trip began at 3 am, lasted through to 8-9 pm – at the earliest. A day of chains, stuffed into vans, buses, the insidious ‘ice-cream truck’, holding cells last cleaned during the Cuban Missle Crisis, and horrible, disgusting things found only in fevered nightmares or David Finch movies.

All this, and more, for what was usually a ten to fifteen second hearing or, even worse, a continuance no one had bothered to tell the DOC about (or had, and … but more on that at a much later date).

Screen-Shot-2012-09-28-at-1.22.17-PM-300x222I found the wannabe Lionel Hutz in the holding tank back at Bridgeport CC

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