Friday, March 27, 2009

Racy pictures

It's a girl in 1910 bathing suit, quite daring for the time. Ahh, but time marches on. Could William Blackstone visit now, he'd flip his powdered wig to see what's become of law. He'd identify the root cause immediately: we've let popular passions confuse the role of intent in the justice process.

The law can only work by remaining a low-temp science. This because a courtroom is often filled with passions; the accused, the victims. Someone must remain detached. That has been the truth of the justice process since long before cell phones. In bringing charges, we are only to consider a specific act and its effect.

It's wrong to charge as Child pornographers, teenagers who willingly exchange racy photographs with other teenagers. The act has nothing to do with Child pornography laws, since they were enacted to protect children from sexual exploitation at the hands of adults. If the photos can be shown to have been extracted by the manipulation of an adult, that adult may be charged, but not the child. In all the cases that have emerged so far, that appears not to be the case.
Similarly, the effects of these immodest acts seems to be a lot of giggling teenage boys, which is nothing new.

I hope the DA's bringing these charges will soon get a proper response from the electorate.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Deja Voodoo

Well sure, it's a terrible thing. Hard economic times, and working folk confronted with Insurance executives living lavishly on dollars collected from their pockets. Yep, that 1905 sure was a bad deal allright.

Equitable Insurance was founded in 1859 by a twenty-five year old man with just a few dollars. When he died forty years later, Equitable was the largest Insurance company in the world. I wish I could've met Henry Hyde, it'd be inspiring.

Wish I could meet his son James too, because it'd be entertaining. Whatever Henry had going, apparently it wasn't something James inherited, so he shouldn't have inherited that kind of power. But he did. Those times or these, that'd be enough to doom any young man's career, but there was more to it with James. See, James had this obsession that the coolest thing in the world was to dress and act like an 18th century French aristocrat. You got to look at 1905. Here's Teddy Roosevelt in the White House, and here's young James going around New York in a frock coat and frills.
And the Press was fairly sensationalist back then (not the paragons of virtue they are now) so something was gonna give eventually.

James threw a big costume party based on 18th century French themes of course. By all accounts, probably Marie Antoinette would've thought it a trifle ostentatious. The Press got ahold of it, some financiers who'd been wanting to take over Equitable fed rumors the party had been done with Company money, and two months later James was forced out. Took his Daddy forty years to build it, and six years for him to lose it.

Interesting, that whether 1905 or 2009, popular opinion often swings on symbols that aren't even relevant to what's going on. Passions are excited, some sort of action follows. Interesting to consider that not always, but sometimes, passions are excited by calm heads, and manipulated to a specific purpose. The Press, the pitchfork weilding mobs, the perform predictably in what is essentially a puppet show.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy birthday Joseph

Winter comes early and with vengeance in parts of the West. The South looks docile, so you can't really tell how many have died from disease, flood and tornado. But the West? One look at those austere peaks is all it takes to know what the West can do.

Joseph was a man of the West, caught in changing times and just trying to do the best he could. Couldn't fight the Whites, so that meant reservation. The reservation was starving his people, so they had to get out of there. That's all he wanted to do, just get to Canada. So for three months, across some of the roughest terrain in North America, went 800 Nez Perce and 2000 US Cavalry in pursuit.

Three months, running gun battles, 1700 miles, and it stopped forty miles from the Canadian border.

They ran Joesph to ground. True to his talents, main body of the tribe had already slipped across to Canada under cover of darkness. He surrendered himself, his family, and those too weak or old to sneak across the border.

Happy birthday Chief Joseph. In troubled times you did the only thing that made sense, the best you could. The greatest good for the greatest number. The West is a hard place, not patient with fools. It's encouraging to me, knowing that hard places and hard times don't always make hard people. There is an important difference between hard people and tough people. You were tough Joseph. Happy birthday buddy.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thanks Paul

I first saw him on TV doing political commentary, when he was about the age I am now. I didn't get much out of it, he seemed to be all mad about things I didn't understand. Of course it was the late 60's and they were maddening times. A lot worse than anything going on now really.

Got back in touch with him in the early 80's when I was teaching guitar on Saturdays. On the twenty minute drive to the music store, turn on the radio and sometimes I'd be lucky enough to catch new old Paul. This Paul didn't seem to be angry about anything, and he was telling "The rest of the story."

Funny thing, I bet I've heard a couple dozen of those, but I can only recall three subjects; Garfield, Coolidge and Johnny Appleseed. Maybe it's not too funny though. Sometimes when we talk with someone we really like, and who we believe likes us, we're fuzzy on topic later, but we recall how comforting it felt.

And that was just you Paul. For all I know you may have laughed at us corny yokels, but I think not. You spun your little tales not from an elevated platform, but as if you were sitting around having coffee with friends. That was part of your magic Paul, you spoke to us as equals, as one who respected us. Very few media figures have ever managed that to any noticeable degree. The best was Will Rogers, and the most recent is Oprah.

For me personally Paul, you helped in my lifelong journey to become an honest historian. You never told me about Minnie Vautrin, Tom Farrish, Dr. Goat Testicles, or Belle Gunness. But you sustained my intuition that such folk were out there hiding in graveyards. If you'd only done that for me you'd deserve my heartfelt thanks, yet you did so much more. You prepared me in advance of meeting these people, so I strain to see the human side of monsters & martyrs. Thanks Paul. You were one a of a kind dude. Now, who picked that tie for you Paul? Was it Ray Charles maybe?