Sunday, July 30, 2006

Murder Case Photographs: #3

Murder Case Photographs: #3


Where's the dead guy? OOOhhh, that smart detective points us the right way. Otherwise we'd never have known, right? Pretty tough. Three guys standing, on their own feet too, as if their hearts are still beating and their synapses synapsing and one guy on the bed not looking so perky.

"Hey George, point at the body just so there's no doubt."???????

George, or whatever his name was, looks pissed too. "No I'm not the dead guy you moe-ron, HE (pointing) is!"

And what about George in profile. George, go to the gym much?

The guy behind George looks like he's going to cry or be sick.

And what about Shades? Looking right into the camera. Not pointing, not looking at the body. Maybe that's why George's pissed. Shades wanted to be the focus of the picture. Hey doofus, it's at night! You're indoors, take them OFF!

-Benjamin Harris

Friday, July 28, 2006

Murder Case Photographs: #2

Murder Case Photographs: #2


Black and white, dark and light, violence and safety. All the usual dichotomy suspects are present here.

Non-color photos are more mysterious because they're not quite how we really see things--that is, in color--so black and white photographs veil their subjects a little, there's a little burlesque in revealing almost all but leaving something to the imagination. They create or enhance a mood.

Here the archaic flash equipment exaggerates the contrasts, bleaching out the car and darkening even more the night background.

Mystery also in where this is. No signs or buildings to provide even a hint. An unpaved gravel road, quickly disappearing into the darkness around a curve.

In our nightmares this is what a murder scene looks like.

-Benjamin Harris

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Murder Case Photographs: #1

Murder Case Photographs: #1


A few years ago the state supreme court ordered that a shift worn by a rape victim and introduced into evidence at the 1967 trial be found, if it could, so that DNA testing could be done. The case irked (almost half of) the court which split down the middle. Four of the nine justices joined in an exasperated dissent.

The court's order went to the prosecutor's office where the trial was held and, randomly within that office, the irksome task devolved to me.

I went over to the Clerk's office where the garment, if it existed, would be. I and the single clerk who had been assigned the task in his office that I had been in mine spent...I don't know how long, but a long time looking for the dress. We eventually were able to determine that it had been destroyed years ago in a purging of non-capital case evidence that was taking up space in the clerk's office.

Along the way I discovered a part of the history of this magnificent city that I love so much, a city that was made infamous then glamorous by crime, patchily captured in the oldest remaining photographs of 1950's murder cases. I have tried murder cases all of my career, first as a prosecutor, now as a defense attorney. It is fitting that this be done.

The photographic evidence presented and preserved here was destined for the incinerator, just as the evidence from earlier decades--going back to the 1920's I was told--was destroyed years ago by the clerk's office. Every month, to this day, the deputy district attorney's in the office got a blanket email from the clerk's office advising that evidence from the cases listed will be destroyed unless someone wants them.

I wanted them and so got hundreds of manilla envelopes containing evidence, almost all documentary, most photographic, from murder trials held in the 1950's. It was from one of these envelopes that I discovered the O'Malley Christmas day triple murder of 1956, the saddest case that ever was, last published here on December 13, 2004.

With this post I finally begin to publish the photographs. Some of them. You will see little blood and gore here. You will see this city as it was in a time that no longer exists and which few even remember. You will also see those photographs that moved me personally in some way, by their poignancy, their (unintended) artistry, even their (unintended) humor.

The first of these photographs above is a 1957 mugshot of a young, handsome murder suspect with period hair style and tropical shirt. Maybe a tourist. The photograph can be enlarged.

Part of the allure of these evidence folders is trying to piece together the whole from a very small part. You know only as much about the case as the physical evidence tells. I don't know anything about this case--or the suspect's "past" as we say (his prior criminal record if any)--but he looks...innocent, not in the legal sense, but in the sense of being callow.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Cesare Paciotti Jewels

Cesar Paciotti Jewels

"Jewels" = jewelry. We have brought this brilliant designer's women's shoes to readers attention previously.* Although not easy to find the shoes can be bought in the U.S. and on ebay. The jewelry line is unavailable in the U.S. however, and we tried.

Last night we found an Italian site from which Americans can purchase the jewelry. sells a wide range of pieces that we presume is the entire line presently: rings, necklaces, pendants, earrings, cuff links ("wrist twists"), even key holders. They give Paciotti's design genius a new expressive outlet. On the shoes the House's signature stiletto logo is a mysterious, dangerous accessory that clashes with the soft sensuousness of the female-foot-in-high-heels form to produce thrillingly dissonant eye appeal.

In the jewelry medium the stiletto can be isolated. The psychological effect is different and just as breathtaking. We ordered a pair of cufflinks and a pair of earrings. Of course the stilettoworks as a logo on a man but it's not macabre or scary. This is not a pair of six-shooters. The stiletto is inspired design because its sleek lines are artistry. The look presented is unmistakable: this is design excellence that you are wearing not a weapon. It is beautiful and singular on a woman as a pair of earrings and it is bold and exciting without being threatening on a man as cufflinks.

Almost all of the Paciotti jewels on Bosch-gioielli are made in fine silver. Only one item comes in gold as an alternate. With shipping included the total for both the earrings and the cufflinks was 90 Euros, or about $114. On July 20 Paciotti announced that Bruce Willis would be the male face in their forthcoming American advertising campaign. This may be one of the last times that the jewelry of this remarkable designer is available at so little cost.

*June 2, 2006.

-Benjamin Harris

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Village WordSmithy

Village WordSmithy

"a cigarette-cured voice."

Brilliant, brilliant and absolutely exquisite.

Margaret Talbot on Orianna Fallaci in the July 24, 2006 The New Yorker. If Ms. Talbot never wrote another word her literary fate should be secured by that luscious turn of phrase.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Iraq: "U.N.: 14,000 Iraqis killed in 2006"

Iraq: "U.N.: 14,000 Iraqis killed in 2006"

That is CNN's headline. The initial assumption obviously was that these were deaths of coalition troops, insurgency combatents and civilians caught in the cross fire.

That does not appear to be true. CNN's article is confusing, at least to us. CNN states that the U.N. document "includes...casualty figures and...anecdotes from the insurgent and sectarian warfare..." That is CNN speaking, not the U.N. The reasonable reading is that the 14,000 figure includes war deaths in the sense used in the first paragraph of this post.

However even those words suggest that the figures are more than war deaths. "Includes" means there's something else. One of CNN's subheads, "Armed robbers hit Baghdad bank," suggests that street crime is "included." Therefore the initial assumption above is incorrect. The 14,000 figure includes both war and street crime killings. The second assumption is that of course war-related deaths dominate the street crime number.

However, that does not appear to be true either. The overall tone of the rest of the article is that street crime dominates. For example CNN refers to the U.N. finding that homosexuals are being killed for their sexual orientation as are those who do not conform to dress and hair rules. Who is doing this, the CNN report is confusing on: "Militias and 'death squads,' " are the U.N.'s words on the targeting of gays. Which "militias and 'death squads,' " the insurgents who are fighting the coalition or something more akin to street gangs?

This is an important point to be clear on. The greater the percentage of the 14,000 that comes from street crime, the more fighting it would be "normal" city crime tactics: firearms restrictions, swift arrest and punishment, etc. The predicate for that kind of action is a strong government. The greater the percentage coming from street crime would logically mean a reduced role for coalition troops.

The greater the percentage of the 14,000 coming from the war the more to the argument that the Administration has botched the war.

The tone of the entire article seems to be that something like street crime is the larger component of the two.

-These are CNN's words: "Kidnappings have been part of the...Iraqi scene since the insurgency began." It's not clear if it's the insurgents who are doing it or street criminals. CNN's next sentence however is that the kidnappers "are not only motivated by sectarianism or politics; organized crime appears to be involved..."

-These are the U.N.'s words: "The police captured members of this gang..." who had been kidnapping, raping and killing children of both genders.

-U.N.: "Civilian casualties resulted mainly from bombings and drive-by shootings," from among other sources, "armed clashes with the police and the security forces."

Maybe follow-up reporting by the media will clarify this issue, which is important for how the U.S. proceeds from here.

-Benjamin Harris

Sunday, July 16, 2006

"What a Wonderful World" Department*

"What a Wonderful World" Department

Smirnoff Green Apple Vodka.

*see also May 23, 2004

-Benjamin Harris

Saturday, July 15, 2006



The most recent symbol of Old Europe's inability to compete in the 21st century economy is the announcement that AirBus will not be able to meet the delivery deadline on its new model jet. One airline has cancelled its contract altogether and even the delays to those who haven't will cost EADS "billions" according to news reports.

EADS is the ambitious multi-national European consortium formed in 1970 to put Europe in competition with and to beat U.S. companies in the lucrative and prestigious jet building industry. EADS inception was propitious. Weakened by fierce competition among themselves, Boeing, Lockheed, and McDonnell-Douglas were vulnerable to a new well-capitalized player and AirBus was that, and government subsidized in addition.

And AirBus did compete. Odds are anyone in the U.S. who has flown even once or twice in the last year has flown on an AirBus jet. And poised for victory AirBus was. Boeing shook out as the American manufacturer from the earlier competition and AirBus has Boeing wounded and bleeding.

In this competition, as in so many others, there is one pivotal moment, the metaphorical fork in the road. A year or two ago both manufacturers at the same time faced the end of their current models lifespan and had to plan for the next generation and each chose a completely different vision of the future of air travel. Boeing's corporate life depends on selling its vision to the air industry.

Boeing chose to work within the current hub-and-spoke paradigm and to build a fleet of faster, more agile, cheaper and more fuel efficient jets. AirBus boldly bet against the paradigm and predicted the (lucrative anyway) future lay in long-haul travel. It therefore planned a fleet of super-huge jets, much larger than the 747, double-decker behemoths with immense passenger capacity designed to traverse intercontinental distances, and the longer the better such as Asia to America.

AirBus' vision was bold, but risky. Its jets were expensive to build and not as fuel-efficient and therefore expensive to operate. Who wants to bet on lower or even stable oil prices over the next generation? Also its planes were so big that expensive changes would have to be made to world airports. Runways would have to be reinforced against the added weight of the jets. Gates would have to be modified to accommodate the height of the new jets passenger doorway. And the last pan-European air travel Grand Vision, the Concorde, had literally and figuratively crashed and burned in France.

AirBus had buyers into its vision however and the showdown with Boeing moved from the drawing board to the assembly plant. But the one thing that any highly competitive industry cannot have is delays. Time is money and delays cost money. Corporate plans go out the window, Plan B's have to be gone to, and trust is compromised. If you're going to buy into a corporation's vision you have to trust.

Additionally, AirBus' delays were caused by a problem ancient to Old Europe and one it cannot shake to this day. EADS charter requires that one of the company's two chief positions go to a Frenchman and the other to a German. Groan. And the present debacle was created because the Frenchman and the German are at each other's throats. Double groan. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

The delivery delay is not fatal to AirBus but it could be the moment when it all began to fall apart. All Boeing might have to do is obey the lawyer's adage, "don't interrupt your opponent when he is making a fool of himself."

-Benjamin Harris

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sports: Soccernet

Sports: Soccernet

The best website for followers of European soccer.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Politics: Lieberman May Run as Independent

Politics: Lieberman May Run as Independent

Senator Joseph Lieberman announced just a few minutes ago that he will run for re-election as an independent in the fall should he lose the Democratic primary.

Liberal businessman Ned Lamont is challenging Lieberman. Mr. Lamont has got the money and Sen. Lieberman has got the enemies to create this situation. Lieberman is a Hawk on foreign policy, he supports the war in Iraq. He was even rumored to be on President Bush's short list for Secretary of Defense if Donald Rumsfeld were replaced. He is labeled the President's "favorite Democrat."

That's too much for the so-called "Democratic Wing" of the Democratic party. The Daily Kos and MoveOn, two Democratic Wing internet water coolers have rallied opposition to Lieberman. The Daily Kos has predicted bluntly that "Lieberman's going to lose."

That a veteran, well-respected, centrist, incumbent, who was the party's vice-presidential candidate six years ago would be in jeopardy of losing his party's nomination is testament to the Groundhog Day-like consistency of so much Democratic behavior since 1968.

And so we take down from our bookshelf a worn edition of Cliches to try to find the rhetorical equivalent to this behavior and turn to the index and find Politics and then the sub-heading Democrats and we find a fitting entry: "firing squad; Democrats organize in circle." And in a cliche frame of mind we issue a prediction McLaughlin Group-like: Lieberman will win in November regardless, and the Democratic party will be further marginalized. This is Public Occurrences.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Photographs of Beijing's Hutongs-The Children

Photographs of Beijing's Hutongs-The Children

I have come up with a solution to China's population problem, I WILL ADOPT ALL OF THE CHILDREN! We were utterly charmed by them all. These two little angels and the one below were our biggest heartthrobs. These two are twins (Duh). Chinese couples get around the one-child-only law by going a few months without being able to conceive and then going to a friendly M.D. who will give them fertility drugs, thus increasing the chances of multiple births. Far as I could tell that was a very good thing. Look how innocently and demurely these two little babies stand here.

We were going to an art museum this weekend day and happened onto a children's art class. You can see the other little ones in the background of this photograph. I saw these two cherubs and tried to take their picture among their classmates but they ran off squealing with embarrassment. It didn't take too much coaxing to get them to stop a minute and pose and this timeless depiction of childhood innocence and beauty was the result.

Please enlarge this photograph and take a look at the little girl in the pink, sitting on the bright blue stool. Oh god.

I wish I had gotten a better picture of her but look how tiny she is. Look at her pig tails, look at her face. I hope you can see some of her earnestness in addition her cuteous maximus. When we stepped behind the corner into this courtyard we were surprised to see this class because we had no auditory sign of children nearby. They were utterly quiet and concentrating on their painting. Even when the presence of others--and foreign others--was apparent there was no mass break in concentration. With the exception of the twins above who we provoked by our attention, the others just kept at task with little more than an occasional look up at us, like this little angel is doing.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Photographs of Beijing's Hutongs-The "Alleys:" Zhangshan Hutong

The four photos below were taken on this hutong.

Uhh, this is a doorway, yeah sure is. A Chinese doorway, too! Yep...I have no idea why we photographed it. This is a pretty pedestrian Chinese doorway as those things go.

This was a funny sign to come across. Don't know exactly what it means either. We never took a rickshaw guide.

Well, that concludes our tour of the exciting Zhangshan hutong!