Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Police Shootings.

There are calls for the District Attorney in Ferguson, Missouri to be replaced or to recuse himself. Why?

"[Robert] McCulloch's father was a police officer and was killed on the job in 1964 by an African-American man, when McCulloch was 12, McCulloch's spokesperson Ed Magee confirmed to CNN. In addition to his father, McCulloch's brother, an uncle and a cousin all served with the St. Louis Police Department, and his mother worked as a clerk at the department, Magee said."

Ah jeez. I am on record, very recent record too, advocating that local D.A.'s should not be investigating local police shootings. Why? Because local prosecutors work with local cops on a daily basis and it is very hard to go from being law enforcement ally to law enforcement adversary and then back again to ally. Typically, in my experience and in Ferguson, the incestuous relationship goes even deeper: the cops investigate their own! So today's brother in blue is tomorrow's suspect in blue. 

So why does this seem different to me? My first reaction was and my reaction still is "Nope. Not enough." I guess because this isn't a policy decision, it's personal to Mr. McCulloch. He, it is claimed, and his office, can't be fair. But isn't a personal, "case-by-case" policy fairer than a blanket policy, as I advocate? Isn't that in fact how, like, the law proceeds, case-by-case? It is. Isn't that part of what I have called the law's "modesty," not, or being cautious about, going beyond the case at hand, being very reluctant to, establish broad frigging policy? Yes! Yes, it is! boo-hoo-hoo (The witness is breaking down under cross-examination.)  And wouldn't you acknowledge, SIR, that in a case-by-case "policy," THIS one cries out for Mr. McCulloch's removal? Yes! Yes! I confess! I confess! I shot Michael Brown! Wait...

All of that is true, well, not the confession, but that truly is the law, or what the law's aims are but it's not ALL the law. It's true as far as it goes but it doesn't go far enough. The law takes a case-by-case approach to the facts but not as to the applicable law. The "policy" discussion above is really a discussion about the law. We don't make up the law on a case-by-case basis, we have centuries of statutory and common law that guide, usually dictate, the legal principles that govern the outcome. They are "precedent," they provide stare decisis and they are a priori, established ahead of time. That's the law against ex post facto laws, you can't make up a law that never existed before and apply it to some poor Schmo retroactively. You are not kept in the dark on the law, in fact, you are presumed to know the law! Judges don't make up the law when you go to court, they apply what has already been made. So, of course, the law sets policy, legal policy.

Finally, there is the law against making laws specific to an individual. "You, Harris, new law: you, and only you, must now wear your underwear on the outside." Can't do that: equality before the law.

So, "Wait..." above incorporates everything...below the wait. And so I believe my first reaction to the calls for Robert McCulloch's removal was sound. It seems to me to violate the principles behind the ex post facto laws and equality before the law, it is against established precedent, (there is a "policy" in place for removal or recusal) and, in my opinion, it sets bad precedent for future policy. My suggested law that "Thou shalt not investigate one of y'all's own" avoids all those problems. The cops and the D.A. in the next county over investigate Ferguson P.D. homicides and Ferguson will reciprocate whenever y'all have one. However, here's another legal nostrum, the law is an organic thing, don't you know? It grows, it mutates, it evolves, it has babies--all to serve the public interest, too late in Johnstown, Pennsylvania's case, but the law is process-determinative but not result-
ignorant. And man, it sure does seem as if this is not the "appropriate" case for Robert McCulloch, with his and his family's history. It would not establish bad legal precedent--or any legal precedent at all--for Robert McCulloch to voluntarily recuse himself, to grit his teeth and swallow the insult to his integrity and acknowledge the public interest and just recuse himself. Bet he doesn't need the work.

"Who was Ernest Hemingway?"

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/aug/14/who-was-ernest-hemingway/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=August+19+2014&utm_content=August+19+2014+CID_42b8a8b35b5387ee66627c46b1dcf15a&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software

This is a really good book review by Edward Mendelson * of the second volume of Hemingway's letters, 1923-25, published by Cambridge. Professor Mendelson writes that the sexually conflicted, androgynous Hemingway created by some biographers is as simplistic as the macho man of Hemingway's own creation.

On the emotional distance in Hemingway's best work Mendelson quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald, writing on The Sun Also Rises:

"Jake Barnes, he said, 'isn’t like an impotent man. He’s like a man in a sort of moral chastity belt.'”

That's a difference! There's a difference between impotence and imposed chastity!

There was something else Hemingway was striving for, writes Mendelson. He traces it back:

"The young men in Hemingway’s early stories live by a moral code that requires them to answer only to themselves. The moral question they ask about their actions is whether they are living up to their own heroic ideal, not what the effect of their actions might be on anyone else. They refuse the obligations imposed by their families and the commitments desired by women. In place of personal relations, they merge into an undifferentiated band of brothers." (emphasis added)

The hair fetish, the gender mixing, the alarming physical merger in The Garden of Eden are not actually sexual, Mendelson writes:

"What Hemingway wanted—both as he-man and as androgyne—was a lasting intimate connection that did not require him to be a separate individual person..."

That's deep. It is out of my depth. Don't get that.

"Hemingway’s deepest wish...was to become one with someone or something else, to live without the burden of a self."

Okay...a little clearer. I guess.

"Denis de Rougemont observed that lovers like Tristan and Isolde who wish to dissolve their separate selves by merging into each other instead find themselves trapped in their separate bodies, and can escape the trap only by dying...At the climax of a bullfight in The Sun Also Rises, Romero’s “sword went in, and just for an instant he and the bull were one.”

Okay, I understand what Mendelson is saying now. I am still not clear on what Hemingway was trying to do, if Mendelson is correct on what Hemingway was trying to do. How did Hemingway think he was going to resolve this "problem" of being "a separate individual person." That sounds to me a pretty fundamental obstacle. Impossible. Only in death, like Tristan and Isolde, like the bull? Where the hell was Hemingway intending to go with this, his "deepest wish," into the frigging
afterlife? Where did he go with it in his fiction, according to Mendelson? Does this have anything to do with Hemingway's own death? Baked but half-baked. I don't know about all this; this is a good review, not a very good review.

I got a kick out of Mendelson's review of this Cambridge edition.

"The Cambridge Edition of the Letters of Ernest Hemingway seems to have been edited for readers who do not exist..."

"...readers who use scholarly editions but who need footnotes identifying Tolstoy and Picasso."
...
"The air of unreality that pervades this and many other learned editions..."

"The new edition, unlike the old one, interrupts the text with a footnote explaining the philosophy of 'Marcus O’Realius.'” Hah!

"Other notes are even less helpful. Proust, the editors report, wrote a work titled A la recherche du temps passé (they also mistitle the English translation)..."

"...the third volume of which “had recently drawn attention” to the suburban village of Guermantes."

 "Hemingway writes in a letter, “Thus are we buggared by destiny, as Hamlet remarked...” 

"...and the editors explain:

"Possibly a reference to Prince Hamlet’s remark shortly before his fatal sword fight at the end of Hamlet by William Shakespeare that there is “special providence in the fall of a sparrow”—that ultimately “providence” controls even the smallest action and event, and that death will come when it will come."

"This overlooks Hemingway’s anatomical paraphrase of Hamlet’s: 'There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.'”


http://publicoccurrenc.blogspot.com/2011/08/this-is-first-paragraph-in-full-of.html

curb your enthusiasm.

Rooski, very disappoint. You leave nyet choices. We sanction. Rooski... Rooski...ROOSKI, SHUT!  Rooski, why you always complain, why you always moan and complain like old peasant woman with hair on mole and sex organ loose like wizard sleeve? Why you no be MAN Rooski and bend over and have anoose violate like man, eh? I announce sanctions. Now you listen Rooski.

US&A announce sanction.
On behalf of Iman President Barack Saddam Hussein Obama, black man, US&A announce following sanction:

One: Three curb you out! No Rooski allowed mix curb with vodka. Vodka or curb. No vodka and curb.
Two: US&A no sell more curb to Rooski. America curb companies forbid sell curb to Rooski.
Three: Rooski Ramada Reward program member cancel. No more stay two night get one free. No more Reward member!

Conclude. That end announcement sanction on Rooski. Have nice day.

Mothers Against Drunk Russians.

Separatist fighters have taken to carousing drunkenly at night and wearing civilian clothes. This month, three of them crashed a car into the curb outside the Ramada hotel. On Saturday, two separatists again crashed at the same spot, rolling their vehicle and scattering broken glass and bullets on the street. On Tuesday, a drunken rebel, improbably, again crashed at that location, severely injuring four civilians.*

Rooski! What you do? You never hear of IUD law? Vodka and Ramada curb no mix! Mix vodka and Yak urine, hmm goot; vodka and Ramada curb, NYET. Everybody know, Rooski. Lay off Ramada curb, stick with vodka ONLY.

*"Plenty of room at the top of Ukraine's fading rebellion, New York Times, August 20.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I really like this show on Public Radio International called "The World." It does really off-beat stories and I beat off and they do stories like on the British Marine Forecast that are really cool and quirky and I'm quirky, or like today's, an interview with an Iraqi war veteran named Alex Horton who has a blog or website or something and who is really into movies. Alex Horton wrote on his site about how much he liked Robin Williams and was recalling some favorite scenes and a guy began corresponding with him who liked Robin Williams too. Common enough occurrence. The guy, however, turned out to be an ISIS supporter in Iraq, a legit ISIS guy AND a legit Robin Williams fan. NOT a common occurrence. This was right up "The World's" alley and so they arranged an interview by host, Marco Werman. Werman has a great radio voice and is a very good interviewer. I like him a lot.

You know how interviewers try to ask "And the moral of the story is?" questions, they try to make a larger point, try to imbue a cool, quirky story with Meaning, how they can't leave cool and quirky alone? Marco Werman did that today, it sounded like against his better instincts because he prefaced his question with "I almost want to ask"--No, you don't!--and appended his question with "Am I too far out there?"--Yes, Yes!--because the question Marco Werman asked Alex Horton was

"Could the conflict in Iraq come to an end through an appreciation of Robin Williams?"

"You're fishing too far out there," Alex Horton.

Marco Werman wasn't rowing his fishing boat with both oars in the water when he asked that question. That is the dumbest question in the history of questions. It's hard to believe. When I originally posted this Tuesday night, there was no doubt in my mind that I heard it correctly, but it was so stupid I wondered if I missed a chuckle or something that would indicate Werman wasn't being serious. Instant replay wasn't available Tuesday night but it is now! Here's the link, the record-setting question begins at 3:49. http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-08-19/american-veteran-and-jihadi-bond-over-robin-williams
-Updated Aug. 2, 1:21 am.

Hey. Guernsey checked in yesterday. Cool. Love that map. They join Norfolk Island from last week. We are the blog of islands No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine. We are an island blog, an itsy bitsy Guernsey, a teenie weenie yellow polka dot Norfolk iland of a blogge, at peece with all, a part of Maine, As Maine goes so goes New Hampshire!

Scholars at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais were also here yesterday. "UFMG" is in Brazil.
Wait...I think Germany just scored again.



And recently, not yesterday, Europe. Just that. Europe. Cool.

"Families, businesses pay price for strife in Ferguson."-McPaper.

Can you believe that? Everything and everybody has got a price in America. That's what we're about. The soul of America is the pursuit of happiness.

Riots in Missouri.

Calling out the National Guard didn't work. Thirty-something arrests and the gengarde came under heavy gunfire.

There's a risk when you ratchet things up like that. You're made to appear weak--and to people who didn't think you were weak--and the rioters are emboldened with a strength they didn't know they had. It puts ideas into peoples heads.

The Federal Aviation Administration has extended a no-fly zone over Ferguson--Look! See those helicopters, low-flying planes, Do NOT shoot at them, okay? Promise?--like the no-fly zones in Ukraine, Syria, and other war zones. 

Police Shooting of Michael Brown.


On August 9, a 28 year old armed white man, Darren Wilson, a Ferguson, Missouri police officer, shot and killed a black, unarmed, 6'4", 292 pound, 18 year old named Michael Brown, who was in the company of another black man, 22 year old Dorian Johnson. It is unclear to me, and apparently to others, how and why Ofcr. Wilson and the two black men came into contact initially, if Wilson was responding to a convenience store robbery or knew nothing about any robbery, and if it was a robbery, whether Brown and Johnson were suspects and why. Besides being two young black men. I think it is the position of Ferguson police that whatever the situation with the strong-arm robbery there was some physical confrontation between Ofcr. Wilson and Brown and perhaps Johnson. I am not clear on Johnson's role, besides being black.

There followed in Ferguson 9 days, so far, of "unrest." Today the Governor of Missouri called out the National Guard to assist in maintaining order. That may have been a necessary step, I do not know, but it was an ominous step as calling out the National Guard is a sign of considerable local loss of control over facts on the street. Also today Dr. Michael Baden released the results of a private autopsy he and a local Missouri Medical Examiner performed on Brown's body and the, I think satisfactorily clear, body diagram at top, identical to a thousand such I have seen over the years. Six shots, all in the front of Brown's body, two in the head. I would think all the shots being to Brown's front is a good sign for Ofcr. Wilson, as good as 6 shots into an unarmed person can be, which doesn't strike me as being cause for police celebration, but I would think one or more shots to the back would have been worse for Wilson. Although I have also read that Brown relatives and protesters are as happy with Baden, et al's report as it is possible to be happy when your unarmed 18 year old loved one or friend has been shot six times and killed by a police officer. Main Justice is going to investigate and conduct its own autopsy. No close range characteristics on the body per Baden's team but the results of gunshot residue analysis on Brown's clothes, an intermediary target, were not available to them.

We have, at this point, the two damning facts: the number of shots and a victim who was unarmed. Those facts (and the races of the principals) would cause unrest and they may remain the most probative facts in the decision whether to prosecute Ofcr. Wilson in state or federal court. Police shootings are a professional area of experience for the undersigned, as are racially-tinged homicides. I hope and I would pray if I prayed that this investigation is conducted with the integrity and thoroughness and independence that have not been present in some police-involved homicide investigations where I practice law. Missouri is the "Show Me" state and Missouri has something to show here.

Monday, August 18, 2014


You know how Florida is shaped "like a turd coming out of the asshole of America?"...Lasting image, no? A cop friend of mine told me that a long time ago. I have never forgotten that. Obviously. It's hard to forget that. For me.

I think things like this Florida thing and the 2009 thing, I think they have done lasting damage to me.

The Florida thing came to mind, unfortunately, when I had the map of another state in mind. If you had a map of Pennsylvania by population density, you'd have these big humps in the southeast, Philadelphia, and southwest, Pittsburgh. In between, not much. It would look something like the remnants of the South Fork Dam:
                                                                       
?

It would look...Look: See that big hump over there: Philadelphia--I didn't say it would look EXACTLY like the dam, for Godssake--and that's Pittsburgh...that other hump by the guardrail, the other dam wall remnant, is Pittsburgh...Or vice versa, it doesn't matter...In my mind I could PICTURE this--Maybe Harrisburg is like...I don't know, Harrisburg would be like...a tree or something down there in between--I didn't picture Harrisburg, okay--Forget Harrisburg! The point, the only point is, one hump is Philadelphia and the other hump Pittsburgh and nothing much is in between...See?

Oh God.

BENJAMIN HARRIS publocc@gmail.com

to me
Call shrink.

WE ARE...PUBLOCC!

Today:

Russia, 28.
United States, 22.
France, 5.
Poland, 4.
Ukraine, 4.
Germany, 3.
United Kingdom, 2.
Poland, 2.
Australia, 1.
Czech Republic, 1.
Japan, 1.

Last five visitors from: Singapore, Japan, France, Pakistan, U.S.

Most read posts today (3 each), this week (28 and 13), and this month (111, 50) are Remembrance, November 28, 2010 http://publicoccurrenc.blogspot.com/2010/11/chinas-great-wall-of-silence_28.html and August 19, 2010 http://publicoccurrenc.blogspot.com/2010/08/chinas-great-wall-of-silence_19.html.



A bewildered wayfarer on the information highway stumbled into these here parts today, read the post linked below and left more bewildered. No doubt. As was I when I heard of it. On the TV. Apparently. This bewildered me for days, I couldn't get it out of my head.  The headline was like one of Noam Chomsky's deliberately non-sensical sentences. You understand each of the words but the whole sentence doesn't make sense. You can obsess on those things. I can. This thing so stuck in my head that I blurted it out to Maureen Dowd when I met her. At a book show. I couldn't help it, it was like I had some kind of Tourette's Syndrome. She appeared bewildered. Also.

You know what, I wouldn't read that if I were you. I'm sorry I did. Again. It could mess you up. Like it did me. It's like LSD. What if you run into Maureen Dowd? As I did. I probably shouldn't even have written this. I can feel it coming back. Having written it I should not post it. But I will. I cannot help it. It's like a bad LSD trip coming back again after 9 years. Don't talk about it if you do read it. Try to put it out of your head. Sing ABBA songs, that seemed to work for me. Try not to sing ABBA out loud, though. I think other people know if you start singing ABBA songs that you've read it. Don't talk to Maureen Dowd until you're sure you have this licked. I'm sorry.
http://publicoccurrenc.blogspot.com/2005/11/on-dead-sparrow-overshadows-domino.html?m=1

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"A New Storm is Breaking."*

New sponsor? Apparently. Just this year. The Chevies!**He-he-he.

Look at this! Wayne Rooney making like LeBron James. He-he-he-he. "We are all witnesses." We witnessed today, he-he-he. Hey! Let's do a photo to commemorate this New Era. WaRoo, go stand over there and do the LeBron thing. Okay, little to your left, a little to your right. There! Now look up.





*I am not making this up, that was the theme of ManU's advertising campaign this summer. Good idea. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.
**How do you make a Chevy go 0-60 in under 15 secs? Push it off a cliff.

Sporting news.

The EPL started already? Yeah, today, only one final in at this time. At Old Trafford Louis Van Gaal makes his debut as manager and goes SPLAT!

Manchester United 1
Swansea 2

Oooh, poor little peepy Red Devils. Ha-ha-ha-HA! The City is BLUE now ManUre BLUE you make me sick.

Texas Governor Indicted.

Rick Perry indicted? Si, on two felonies, coercion of a public official, a third degree, and...well, he forgot what the other one was (abuse of official position, a first degree felony). I think Perry is the longest-serving governor in Texas history. No TexGov has been indicted since 1917, which I find suspicious. Anyway. Wow.

Friday, August 15, 2014

"In the judgment of lawyers [check] who have examined the facts of the disaster in recent years, it also seems likely that had the damage cases been conducted according to today's standards the club and several of its members would have lost. [Heh-heh-heh. Swine Gilders.] It is even conceivable that some of those immense Pittsburgh fortunes would have been reduced to almost nothing. [Reduce 'em to below nothing!]What the repercussions of that might have been is interesting to speculate. Possibly it would have delayed, perhaps even altered significantly, the nation's industrial growth." [EEECK!]-The Johnstown Flood, David McCullough, 259.
Johnstown, we thank you, all of us thank you, the nation thanks you for your enormous sacrifice...That these dead shall not have died in vain. That there shall be a new burst of gilding and that government of the brains and drive, by the brains and drive, for the brains and drive shall not perish, etc., etc. and etc.
That is not exactly the choice which David McCullough poses to us, he poses a hypothetical choice if
strict liability had been the American civil law's standard for liability at the time of the Johnstown
Flood but it's pretty close to that! What is the "cash value" of those 2,209 lives? That is the "bottom
line" question in American civil law. That is civil "justice!" In 1889 (and for a short time thereafter)
the answer to that question was, "Nothing." Johnstown's dead were "worth" nothing in American civil law because only the corporation could be held liable for a deadly corporate "product," not the individual persons who formed the corporation. To prevail one wronged by the corporate product had to prove "by a preponderance of the evidence that the corporation had been negligent. The persons who formed the corporation were insulated from liability unless they were personally, individually, negligent. South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, Inc. was capitalized at, i.e. it was only "worth," about $25,000. Forget what the individual members net worth was. That corporate "worth" works out to $11.32 per death. Forget injury, emotional trauma, property damage. So if you could show that SFFHC, Inc. was negligent, then in the "damages" phase of the trial you could expect to be awarded (on average) $11.32 per death.
What about the criminal law? People were killed by the negligence of someone or something.
Negligence is not a crime, wasn't then, isn't now. "Mere" negligent behavior is not criminal behavior. Adjutant General D.H. Hastings, military in-charge at Johnson stated publicly that the SFFHC alterations of the dam were a matter of "criminal negligence." Hastings rode that statement and his performance at Johnstown to the governorship of Pennsylvania but the criminal angle went no further. Because the Gilders were so powerful? Had judges and legislators in their pockets? Because legally negligence, to be criminal, must be "culpable," the equivalent of an intentional deprivation of life? Whatever the reason or reasons a criminal investigation never occurred.

American law, civil and criminal, is process-determinative not result-determinative. You take your case to the Justice Factory. We put it into the Justice Machine. It slices, it dices, and out from a nice, shiny pipe comes Justice. It doesn't matter if what comes out of the shiny pipe looks like shit and smells like shit, the fact that it has come out of that process means it's JUSTICE.
Nobody then (except the Gilders) not Johnstown people, not newspaper people, not writer people, nobody thought what came out of the pipes in the SFFHC suits was justice. Nobody now (except the Gildings), and add to the aforementioned, legal people, nobody thinks what came out of the pipes then was justice. It was shit then, it is shit now.
David McCullough thinks it was shit too. But David McCullough asks us, hypothetically, to consider whether we would have wanted the "strict liability" process to have been applied to the Gilders. Because if we do! although the lives of the Flood victims would have been "worth" more, "possibly," "perhaps," the nation would have been shit economically and we all would have been "worth" less.
McCullough does not choose between the choices he presents us, he invites us to choose (I hate when that happens.), probably because it's all hypothetical. What difference does it make? The way it was was the way it was, and the way it is..repeat.

Well, screw that.
I agree with everything McCullough wrote in that passage. The net worth of Andrew Carnegie alone, was $300-$400 billion. Throw in your Frick, your Frack, your Knox, your Socks--those cats were
loaded--and you know, $300 billion here, $400 billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money!
Perhaps Johnstown's victims of Frick and Frack would have been "worth" close to Frick and Frack
under strict liability. Those "hunkies," those "dagos," "wops," those uneducated miners and mill workers? Worth in the ballpark of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick? Ahh, gotcha! They were worth as much. Politically,--one man, one vote, "We hold...self-evident...equal"--and morally, morally, they were worth as much. In a society, in an economic system, that was so, so different from the one at founding, where the changes of industrial capitalism were literally unimagined, where products were produced on a scale unimaginable and could cause mass casualties, in a society with those founding principles still, yet one that had made a joke of those principles, not less in economics, the rationale for strict liability was, partly, to recognize the facts of this new society, the mass production, the massive risk to the public, the distorted "worths" industrial capitalism had created, to recognize that we were a society still, not just 100,000,000 atomized individuals, a society, in which we shared, fortune and misfortune, success and failure, life and death, and strict liability gave legal force to this sharing of all, so that individual persons suffered a little less disproportionately, prospered a little more proportionately, so that those "worth" an inestimably small sum compared with their "betters," were legally recognized to be worth more than nothing. Nothing! The American legal system is process-determinative, it is not result-insulated. It recognized, belatedly, that the way it was produced shit and people weren't shit and it changed, the law changed. Perhaps, possibly, the nation's industrialization would have been delayed, significantly altered. The nation's. We all would have shared in that too. That is a better way. So say I.

Seeking the Soul: The Pursuit of Happiness and The Way It Is.

"In the judgment of lawyers who have examined the facts of the disaster in recent years, it also seems likely that had the damage cases been conducted according to today's standards the club and several of its members would have lost. It is even conceivable that some of those immense Pittsburgh fortunes would have been reduced to almost nothing. What the repercussions of that might have been is interesting to speculate. Possibly it would have delayed, perhaps even altered significantly, the nation's industrial growth." -The Johnstown Flood, David McCullough, 259.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Seeking the Soule: The Pursuit of Happiness.

"[If it really was the South Fork Dam that broke (It was.) then] Pittsburghers...will be deprived of their most popular resort." -Jesse H. Lippincott, son of SFFHC member,* to the New York World, June 2, 1889.

"They didn't want to lose their lake. They cared about people."-Virginia Soule, granddaughter of Louis Semple Clark, great-granddaughter of Charles John Clark, SFFHC members, to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 18, 2006.

It is an attitude that spans families and 117 years. Wow. Never met people who thought like that. Honest to God. Never had anybody talk to me like that except Mitt Romney. Never had anybody talk like that around me about other people. Never had people talk down to me, up to me, anything other than straight to me. Honest to God. I haven't been around super-rich people so how would I know? I guess that's right. Palm Beach, the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard--never been to any of them. Boca Raton, nope. What's out on the Left Coast? Palm Springs? Don't even know. Never been to Palm Springs either. Been to Aspen! That's super-rich. I don't think visiting a resort town counts, though. Now, if I'd lived in Aspen. That'd count. Never lived there. Why am I so surprised? I really am surprised. I'm a little offended too. Pissed. More surprised though. Why? Romney was just in 2012. I guess I just thought he was one out of touch dude. That there were not many of "them." But hell, he got the nomination of the Republican party!  That's a lot of dudes. Dudettes. Mrs. Dudes. Well, I'm still surprised. Maybe because I'm an idiot. Maybe that's what "they" think and maybe "they" think that because I am. I've considered the possibility of idiot-hood before. The likelihood sometimes. I concluded, on the whole, I wasn't. But maybe I was wrong. I know I've been wrong before, Hoo-Doggie. Maybe I was wrong about not being an idiot. Idiots, I would think, are less likely to see their own idiocy. They think they're, on the whole, normal, average, even above average like the people of Lake Woebegone. I KNOW I'm not rich. Maybe I don't pursue happiness enough. I've never wanted to be more happy than I was. I'm happy enough. I've never wanted to pursue any more happiness. I don't want to pursue shit at this stage of my life. I'm done with pursuit. I have trouble pursuing a train of thought now. So I'm DONE with pursuit, if I ever did it, which by "these people's" standards I never did anyway.  But don't talk down to me, man, I'll kick your ass. Or get my own ass kicked trying. I bet I could still kick Mitt Romney's ass. Marc Leder. I think I could take them. They'd know they had gotten hit, I know that much, Hoo-Doggie. Don't talk down to anyone AROUND me. I might try to kick your ass then, too. Probably just curse, I'm good at that, or write nasty sarcastic things about you. I do that too. But only when I have to. I'll end with a general FUCK YOUUUU! to all of "them" and say good night.

*That is who how this entry appears in McCullough at 242-3. Jesse H. Lippincott was a member. The problem is he didn't have a gilding named Jesse. 

The Pursuit of Happiness: "The way it was."

"Timing," "luck": The Gilders had that going for them in addition to "brains and drive." Their jurisprudential timing and luck were impeccable. "The way it was" legally in the Gilded Age personal responsibility for a man-made disaster did not lie unless direct personal negligence could be proved. The courts of the day rejected the English common law's "strict liability." As a consequence, although there were lawsuits against South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, Inc., and even those were unsuccessful ("Act of God"), no person, no individual club member, no Carnegie, Mellon, Frick or Clark(e) could be held even financially liable, much less criminally. That's just the way it was. Not one dime was ever collected from SFFHC or its members through legal process.*

T'aint the way it is now.

The Johnstown Flood occasioned a change in American law. Public outrage that neither the corporation nor its members were legally responsible for the disaster caused American courts to adopt the English strict liability standard. (So you see, the Gilders changed the law and we should thank them for that. Thank you.)Today, there is not a lawyer, legal scholar or judge who does not think that under strict liability, the club and its members would have had to pay. A lot. What would the consequences of that have been?**. The Gildings and their children and grandchildren would do well to think about that before making breezy, complacent statements about "the way it was."

*Many members sent charitable contributions. Thirty, out of 68, gave nothing.
**"It is even conceivable that some of those immense Pittsburgh fortunes would have been reduced to almost nothing." The Johnstown Flood, David McCullough, 259.

Seeking the Soule: The Pursuit of Happiness and "The way it was."

"We are not even defensive about the fact that our grandfather and our great-grandfather were members of the club. Here were people enjoying the hard work of their predecessors. In those days, that's just the way it was. The people who had the brains and the drive are the ones who built up the big fortunes." -Virginia Soule.

That's how the rich think. It's a variant on survival of the fittest. Prosperity of the smartest! It was Mitt Romney's philosophy of makers and takers. It is incorrect philosophy, incorrect sociology, incorrect economics. It is incorrect  It is also wrong in the moral sense. There is of course a correlation but "brains and drive" don't guarantee prosperity and the lack of brains and drive don't doom a person.  There is also timing, luck, good and bad, and opportunity, and inherited wealth.

Did the people of Johnstown lack drive? No. They worked very hard indeed. Did they lack brains, the miners and mill workers? No.* Their fear of the dam was well-founded and the brains and drive of the SFFHC members resulted in incompetence and the deaths of 2,209.

But more than that, are brains and drive all?  What about being good?  What about being good people, empathetic, moral, caring, sympathetic?  Are those not attributes more desirable than brains and drive? Soule's attitude is so breezily hard-hearted. People with fewer brains and less drive--no reason to feel defensive about the deaths of 2,209 of them! So tactless, tasteless. If she had (she's dead) brains and drive they did not produce in her that refinement, that is often said to come with prosperity, to be tactful. Being "not even defensive" is offensive.

*British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock gave a famous speech on the brains and drive of working people in 1987.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Gilded Pond.

That guy is this guy:


He ended up getting married and having two kids. :o Maybe he was a switch-hitter.

And this guy:

I think. No moustache but the facial features are right.

And this guy:


I think. Pretty sure.
Who is this jackanapes? 


That jackanapes is the source of all these photographs.

Then how come he's in so many of these photographs? Don't know. Good point, don't know. "L.S. Clarke," but he used several names, is the source of about 75% of all known photographs of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. Originally a gilding, Clarke, "Clark," "LS," "Louis Semple Clark(e)," "Simpson Clarke," was the son of SFFHC member Charles John Clarke and also became a member his own self. He is thought to be the last person to join.

There is a great wall of silence concerning SFFHC (1) and the post-flood stonewalling (2) began at Charles John Clarke's house:


"When the flood happened...Club members were called to the Clarke home [I think this is in Pittsburgh not at SFFHC.] where they were informed of the terrible disaster. Here, Club members formed the Pittsburgh Relief Committee to help Johnstown. However, Club members were informed by the Club's general counsel, James Hay Reed and Philander C. Knox, Club members themselves, to maintain silence. This was done so well by Club members that later generations never knew about their ancestor's relation to the disaster." (3)

Days after the flood Louis Semple Clarke told a New York Herald reporter that "among the
engineers" it wasn't at all clear that it had been the South Fork Dam which had "moved away" causing the flood.(4) Maybe it was another dam? The problem was Louie knew, he knew it was the South Fork Dam that had caused the flood because Louie had, like, been there. He was at the club that day.(5) Louie didn't take any pictures, he didn't have time. He and the others at the club high-tailed it to Altoona.

Louie's photos of that gilded time didn't surface until the 1980's when his granddaughter found them in her New Hampshire attic. ?  Yeah, they are now in the possession of Penn Highlands Community College which puts in quotation marks that they were "discovered" by the granddaughter, Virginia Soule.(6) To the claim that the flood had "devastated" the Clarke family (7) Virginia says psshaw:

"We are not even defensive about the fact that our grandfather and our great-grandfather were members of the club. Here were people enjoying the hard work of their predecessors. In those days, that's just the way it was. The people who had the brains and the drive are the ones who built up the big fortunes." (8)

Louie went back to Pittsburgh after his emergency trip to Altoona but eventually followed others like him to sunny Palm Beach, Florida, where he lived out the remainder of his life and died. He was buried though back in Pittsburgh's cemetery to the rich, famous, and infamous, Allegheny Cemetery, under the name of Louis S. Clarke.


1. The Johnstown Flood, David McCullough, 49.
2. McCullough, 241, 255, 256, 267.
4. McCullough, 20.
5. McCullough, 243.
Come on Johnstown, bring it! Throw down time, bee-atches! Show me the money picture!...Frigging eagle-eyed Johnstown people...No binoculars, either! No frigging telescopes! Eyeballs, baby. Eyeballs only.

Pisses me off.

Back to the Drawing Board.


I have drawn a "red line," not well but the best I can do. Like President Obama's "red lines" my red line means "Do not cross." Unlike President Obama, I really mean it. My red line means everything below is Johnstown, whether it is or it isn't, for purposes of this here exercise. Anybody who saw "sailboats on the mountain"--or the waterfall--above that red line: DON'T CARE. You're not a Johnstown person. Even if you lived below the red line, if you ran up there or rode your frigging horse up there and saw: DON'T CARE. And unless I see a goddamned picture taken from below that red line that shows you can see the area of the dam, T'AIN'T GONNA BELIEVE IT. I have also drawn a circle, better, and an X. Those seem to me to be the most likely areas from which to see "sailboats on the mountain." You're welcome. 

On Gilded Pond.

In addition to spatial issues I have reading comprehension and memory issues as well. David McCullough never writes that any of the survivors said they could see "sailboats on the mountain" from Johnstown. The section of the book in which McCullough writes of this is as follows:


"Seen from down below, the dam looked like a tremendous mound of overgrown rubble... It reared up 72 feet above the valley floor...Its face was very steep and covered with loose rocks...There was hardly any indication that the thing was the work of man and no suggestion at all of what lay on the other side, except over at the far left, at the eastern end of the dam, where a spillway had been cut through the solid rock of the hillside and a wide sheet of water came crashing down over dark boulders. It was a most picturesque spot, and a favorite for picnics...And at the base of the falls a wooden bridge crossed the loud water and sent the road climbing straight to a clump of trees at the top of the dam..."

In context, "Seen from down below" refers to the members of SFFHC traveling to the lake from the rail station, not the people of Johnstown. McCullough saw the same photos I posted yesterday. All the picnickers were the Gildings not the people from Johnstown. Unless Miss Sicily snuck in.
...
"The difference in elevation between the top of the dam and the city of Johnstown at the stone bridge was about 450 feet, and the distance from the dam to that point, by way of the river valley, was just under fifteen miles."
...
"...[A]s one man in Johnstown often told his children, it was a 'mighty body of water to be up there on the mountain.'"
...
"In all the talk there would be about the lake in the years after it had vanished, the boats, perhaps more than anything else, would keep coming up over and over again."
...
"But it was the sailboats that made the greatest impression. Sailboats on the mountain! It seemed almost impossible...Yet there they were: white sails moving against the dark forest across a great green mirror of a lake..."

"All the talk," "coming up over and over again," these sections unambiguously refer to the people of Johnstown: who saw the boats, the sailboats,--"Yet there they were..."-- the "mighty body of water." Sure seems like some of the people of Johnstown could see, and saw! But he doesn't say "saw," he says "talk."  "Years after" an event, people's memories can play tricks on them; years after, people can play tricks on other people. But,"Yet there they were" is a sight "impression." In that one brief section David McCullough does seem to mean that the people of Johnstown said they saw. I don't know. All I know is, except for that one part, McCullough does not say the people of Johnstown could see and did see. It's a short book, there's not enough detail on this point for the reader to be clear what the author means. After re-reading McCullough, the post below stands. And now, my doubts are reinforced. Unless I see a current photograph taken from somewhere in downtown Johnstown that shows you could see the area of the dam, I am not going to believe it.


I have major spatial issues. Just can't visualize things. The above is the best map for "spatial" people like me. Now I can see. Lake Conemaugh circled in gold (can't draw worth shit either). According to accounts of survivors reviewed by David McCullough the people in Johnstown could see the "sailboats on the mountain" used by members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. There is not an image of that either, not even a current view. I have googled it every which way, "Johnstown looking toward South Fork," Johnstown looking east," South Fork from Johnstown." From what I can figure, the best view, "as the crow flies," would have been approximately along the line of the Frankstown Road--but I don't know! What if a frigging mountain was in the way? You'd have to get an unobstructed view up the valley and the crow might not fly that way.  On that 1890 map, where the heck is the unobstructed view? Now I can see and I still can't see. The distance between Johnstown and the Johnstown Flood National Memorial using the Frankstown road is 10 miles. But the flood didn't fly like the crow either and the distance the flood waters took is always given as longer, 14-17 miles. Let's use 10 miles as the more suitable distance for straight-line sight. That's still 10 miles! I can't see 10 miles, I don't think. People better sighted than me, which granted is 99.44% of the population, could see the white sails from 10 miles away? I've seen and posted a number of photos of the sailboats. They were not the dang Tall Ships for goddsakes, they were pretty normal looking sailboat size.

                                                                             No.
                                         
              Now, maybe you could see her big ass from 10 miles away but that sail?

                                                                Get outta town.

No and no. Granted the sail in the foreground, forewater? is folded, but no. That sail, that speck, off to the left in the backwater, that's what has me concerned. Lake Conemaugh was 1 mile wide at its widest. Here we have an unobstructed view, "as the crow flies," of a sail less than 1 mile off, and you can hardly see it.

That's a kid. That's a kid's sailboat, up close. That sail's only a kid or two tall and wide. No.


That's the same kid, looks like the same sailboat. Sail looks taller there. No.


Adult. Adult sailboat. Two sails. Not tall enough. No. 


That one is big. Using Sinbad there as a measuring instrument, that sail appears to be 3 Sinbads tall to the point at top and a little over 3 Sinbads wide at its widest point. So, let's say Sinbad was 5'8". That's 17.4 feet, which we'll round off to 17 1/2 feet high and, using a quarter Sinbad for the extra width, 18.85 feet wide, which we'll round off to 19 feet, wide. If that thing was in the direct sightline from J-town, which I don't see from that map, it would be visible from 10 miles away. I think. What about that speck less than a mile away?


                                                                      Even bigger.



Big. Big sail. Photo taken from, 20 yards away? How big would it look 10 miles away? Not very big.


Yes!...Maybe. Did a direct sightline exist? It had to. Maybe that map is wrong. McCullough says the memory of sailboats on the mountain came up again and again in survivors accounts. One person can
be wrong, could be making it up, but "again and again?" This may be key: McCullough does not say where in Johnstown the people were who said they could see "sailboats on the mountain." I had always had in my mind that they were in downtown Johnstown, on the floodplain. Maybe they weren't. What if they were up a mountain themselves, like up a mountain where they could look over the mountains in between Johnstown and South Fork? Then they could see.


Mr. McCullough writes also that a picturesque waterfall could be seen shimmering in the sunlight from Johnstown. As I recall from the book, that would have been from the spillway.

That would be visible from 10 miles away to crows in Johnstown.


Lot of aqua there. That would be visible.



Drought? Couldn't see that. En passant, I bet some girls got their pettycoats took off up there.


I think that's Miss Sicily seated at right.

HELD: I don't know, I'm not holding. Off these images and that map, I'm not convinced. That map has me concerned. No direct sightline apparent. I may have been reading too much into McCullough but I really thought he was talking about people in downtown Johnstown, not on another mountain above Johnstown, being able to see. Obviously if you get up high enough, like if we were in a frigging airplane now, we could see. The distance also has me concerned. In the "folded sail" photo that sail in the distance is less than a mile away from the photographer, and still that sail is just a speck. The waterfall, when the "water was up," water reflects light better than sailcloth...A person on a mountain could see the waterfall when it was full and the big sails. From downtown Johnstown, no. Only Big Butt would be visible.

Robin Williams, In Memoriam.


This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

Robin Williams, In Memoriam.


I see trees of green, 
red roses too. 
I see them bloom, 
for me and you. 
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world. 
I see skies of blue, 
And clouds of white. 
The bright blessed day, 
The dark sacred night. 
And I think to myself, 
What a wonderful world. 
The colors of the rainbow, 
So pretty in the sky. 
Are also on the faces, 
Of people going by, 
I see friends shaking hands. 
Saying, "How do you do?" 
They're really saying, 
"I love you". 
I hear babies cry, 
I watch them grow, 
They'll learn much more, 
Than I'll ever know. 
And I think to myself, 
What a wonderful world. 
Yes, I think to myself, 
What a wonderful world. 
Oh yeah.

Robin Williams Dead, Apparent Suicide.

God damn it.