Friday, June 20, 2014

I'm Here to Help When I Can

The Capitalism Facebook page shared a "meme" today with a quote attributed to Joseph Sobran.

     A page administrator affixed the legend: "How is this even possible?"

     My reply:

"I'm glad you asked. The deepest roots of the problem (aside from an apparent trait in the majority of the human race to cling to its primordial superstitious, illogical, pre-conceptual roots) lie in the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, philosophic progenitor of the Endarkenment, who killed the Enlightenment in the second half of the eighteenth century with his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics and his critiques (particularly his Critique of Pure Reason, published in 1781). This 'Copernican Revolution' reversed the implicit Aristotelianism of the Enlightenment with a primacy of consciousness metaphysics and an epistemological irrationalism that produced an ineluctable, inexorable concatenation of intellectual destruction through the transcendental, Kantianized neoPlatonism of Hegel and his American epigones, the Emersonian transcendalists. This culminated, in America, in the late nineteenth century with the anti-principle philosophy of pragmatism (pioneered by Charles Sanders Pierce, William James, John Dewey, and other nerds) and its progressive education, which explicitly avers that reality is a Heraclitean flux without identity molded by the Kantian collective unconscious, that man is primarily an actor (not a thinker), that an idea is a 'plan of action' resorted to only as a matter of practical necessity to remove obstacles from one's path when reality is occasionally stubborn and recalcitrant and does not bend to man's or men's desires--and that the purpose of education is not to learn facts and truths about reality antecedent to human consciousness or to develop a child's conceptual faculty (which is harmful and 'selfish,' according to them), but to engage children's feelings and indulge in mindless 'creativity' while fostering a "social spirit" of mindless conformity to society and service to that amorphous, nebulous, nonexistent construct, 'humanity.' (In other words, politics is nothing. Fundamental philosophy is everything. It was not only possible but inevitable.) Any questions? I'm here to help when I can."

Postscript: I don't have time to fix the font now because I am getting ready for a midnight screening of Pump Up the Volume with writer-director Allan Moyle in person and a stop on the way to purchase some Frank Stallone records (which may be the subject of a future post on the other site).  I may fix it later, but it looks readable so I may not.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Neglected Aspect

"Hell is the impossibility of reason."   attributed to Jean-Paul Sartre (himself a hellish intellectual)
"Ted Kennedy's car killed more people than my guns."  (legend on a bumper sticker spotted in Langhorne, Pennsylvania circa 2001)

It started with a knife.

On Friday, May 23, a deranged (or, at least, deeply disturbed) twenty-two-year-old man chose to murder several people and injured several others in Isla Vista, California (and/or chose not to commit suicide before carrying out predatory actions he could no longer completely control).  In any event, he had lost even a modicum of reason (which most people in an increasingly anti-reason culture still retain) and had sunk below his nature.  (Only humans can do that; no other species is volitional.)  He stabbed his two roommates and another man in his home.  (These first three murders fit the pattern of the typical homicide in this country—a stabbing death in the victim’s and/or perpetrator’s own home by someone known to them.)  Before being shot to death by an officer or officers of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, he had shot several people and struck at least two with the automobile he was driving.

All innocent people who lost their lives (particularly in avoidable circumstances) that day (and any other), as well as those close to them—anywhere on Earth—deserve the deepest sympathies of any decent person.  If May 23 was anything like a typical day in the United States, at least eighty people died in automobile accidents around the country (not counting the Santa Barbara County madman’s victims).  (Contrary to neo-prohibition propaganda, if any of the accidents were caused by alcohol consumption, that would have been a very untypical, anomalous day, but that is a topic for another occasion.)

While all who died needless deaths that day (and any other) are equally deserving of sympathy (along with their intimates), it is appropriate to focus special attention on an extraordinary event like a mass killing (whether it was a “mass shooting,” partially a “mass shooting” in the case of this event, or otherwise).  Despite a gradual increase in such incidents that is less alarming than commonly interpreted, they are still remarkably extraordinary (and even rare).  While it is appropriate to focus and reflect on such events (no matter the means with which they were carried out), it is equally appropriate to reflect on the general public’s reaction to this event and similar ones (to the extent that horrific series of public crimes perpetrated by singular sociopaths are similar to each other).  It is also appropriate to call to attention other, much more common, incidents of avoidable deaths—and the types of people who perpetrate them, whether purposively and premeditatedly or otherwise—of innocents which a worthless, recreant news media and the credulous public that follows it choose to ignore.  Those concerned with the avoidable deaths of innocents no longer have any justification (if they ever did) to evade those phenomena if they are interested in violence awareness and prevention.

The national news media (and a significant cross-section of “regular people”) are, as usual, fixating on the shootings even though they constituted less than half of the perpetrator’s criminal actions.  A father of one of the shooting victim’s (who, as noted above, is surely a sympathetic figure, even after unwittingly embarrassing himself in public) blamed the National Rifle Association and “craven politicians” for his son’s death.  He (and countless others) is exhorting politicians to pass yet more gun-related legislation despite the fact that the shootings occurred in California, a state which already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in this formerly free country—and the shooter complied with all of them.  (To iterate: murder is a separate crime often completely unrelated to firearms, and firearm possession is a categorically different activity than homicide.)  Many gun owners and gun rights advocates have pointed out that a deranged gunman may yet have retained enough of his faculties that he would not have bothered to execute (if you’ll pardon the unintentional pun) such a series of crimes in a state that recognized gun rights more consistently—and, even if he had, he would likely have been stopped earlier by an armed citizen who is not a law enforcement officer and would have effected a smaller body count.  John Lott, the author of More Guns, Less Crime, has been adducing evidence for the detrimental effect on crime of citizen firearm ownership for years, to a largely uninterested and/or hostile “mainstream” culture.  Whatever Lott’s views on other issues, he is trenchant, consistent, and convincing on this one (unlike the National Rifle Association, an organization hated for most of the wrong reasons).  (Perhaps overrated, statist Texas is the John Lott of states—and, despite Texas’s problems, I am unaware of recent “mass killings” in the Lone Statist State.)

Some have noted that the killer had a history of mental health problems and had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, the high-functioning form of autism discovered by Hans Asperger in Vienna in the 1940s and rediscovered by British autism researcher Lorna Wing (who coined the name in 1981).  Some are opining that such diffident, reticent loners should be sedulously scrutinized with a wary eye and are a disproportionate threat to the public (especially its female members) despite the facts that most individuals with any form of autism are more likely to be crime victims than perpetrators and most killers are loquacious lotharios like Ted Bundy and Albert DeSalvo.  (The latter, contrary to popular belief and official public proclamation,  was almost certainly not a killer—though he was a predator who exclusively targeted women and certainly more closely fit a profile of the typical mass murderer.)
Despite the fact that at least as many of the multi-weapon killer’s victims were male, many observers (often the same as those mentioned in the previous category) feel that the crime spree crystallized a sublimated culture of “misogyny” (despite the fact that “misogyny” is a household word and the equally common phenomenon of “misandry” is as lonely a word as Billy Joel’s “honesty”).  The virginal killer had written a prolix manifesto and posted videos to YouTube that castigated society for rejecting him and never inviting him and his back to form what the Bard waggishly referred to in Othello as “the beast with two backs.”  The subtext, anyway, is that twenty-two-year-old male virgins, “autistic” or otherwise, are a uniquely or disproportionately dangerous subgroup.  Most twenty-two-year-old virgins, like Hugh Hefner and Paul Krassner, eventually lose their virginity (as Hefner did at age twenty-three and Krassner did in his mid-twenties) and, even if they don't, never attack people.  (Hefner, incidentally, has been subject to a lifetime of feminist objurgation and obloquy that no literal lady killer, including the one who struck last Friday, could ever attract.)

To reiterate: any needless, premature death is a tragedy; its victims (and their loved ones) are deserving of sympathy and attention.  That does not mean that outliers should be seen as anything other than outliers or blown out of proportion—or that they should not be put into perspective and contrasted with incomparably more common categories of needless death.
While notable and deserving of special attention, bizarre, rare anomalies such as those that occurred last Friday should set neither public policy nor dominate public discourse.  (Journalist David Codrea noted that the three deadliest “mass killings” did not involve guns at all.  It is my understanding that most kitchen sinks have enough ingredients to construct deadly bombs—instructions for which are easily obtainable these days.)

In the audio commentary track on a DVD release David Fincher’s unconscionable, overrated cinematic kitsch-fest Zodiac, the inestimable James Ellroy noted that homicide detectives have told him (and others) that murder is one of the easiest crimes to solve—not because most murders are perpetrated in public in plain view of eyewitnesses but because most murders are committed by those known and connected to the victim (a pool that tends to preclude the severely socially inept).

The true crime blogger Eponymous Rox and others have noted that the typical homicide, if there is such a thing, is committed (often, but not always, on the spur of the immediate moment, in the range of the immediate moment, and driven by whim) in the victim’s or perpetrator’s kitchen (or their shared kitchen) with one of the victim’s and/or perpetrator’s own knives.
Additionally, a figure widely shared among those more attuned to likely risk and more systemic problems avers that an innocent, unarmed, and peaceful citizen is eight times more likely to be shot by a law enforcement officer than a predator who does not wear a uniform (or drive an unmarked official car in plain clothes).

Despite these facts, and the deterrent and/or minimizing effect of ubiquitous citizen firearm ownership, the illogical, credulous, programmed majority of an intellectually eviscerated culture are focusing attention not only on the victims of the latest “mass killing” spree (which is proper), but also on the putative “need” for yet more “gun control” (including in a state which has as much as possible short of outlawing all guns) and the ostensible danger (disproportionately affecting women) of lonely male strangers with guns—while the majority of them will continue to habitually ignore law enforcement ordnance, the cutlery and “normal” companionship in their kitchens (and elsewhere), and the increasingly aggressive and reckless driving habits of an alarmingly de-conceptualized, reckless, and emotionalist culture of manufactured irresponsibility, in which reason is becoming impossible increasingly frequently.  All of this was inspired by a series of incidents that began with more typical series of stabbings in the killer's own home (of males he knew), continued with the use of an automobile as a weapon, and occurred in a state with several high-profile (though relatively ignored and now mostly forgotten) incidents of innocents killed by law enforcement (recently and otherwise).

This phenomenon is similar to what logicians call the fallacy of the neglected aspect.  It is far deadlier than male loners and/or guns (even those of law enforcement).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Snapshots of Endarkenment--and Enlightenment--at the "Los Angeles Times" Festival of Books

Yesterday, I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
     The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is an annual (as far as I can tell) gathering of authors, publishers, book vendors, book stores (remember those?), and others that occurs on a Saturday and Sunday in the spring.  There are barters, bargains, lectures, and signings.  I attended a previous iteration at the University of California at Los Angeles (and attended a memorable--and hilarious--discussion between James Ellroy and Joseph Wambaugh); this past weekend's festivities occurred at the University of Southern California.
     The various tents hoisted off of Figueroa Street represented every conceivable entity and theme, from militantly religious to militantly atheistic ("Atheists United"--which would presumably include, in theory and in the abstract, Nat Hentoff and Noam Chomsky at the same time); from major publishers (Penguin's truck, unfortunately, was heavy on contemporary trivialities and light on their Classics) to more modest competitors; from well-known local bookstores (Skylight Books, where I also saw James Ellroy) to smaller vendors; from horror writers' associations to a series of adventure books set in Disneyland.  C-SPAN had a truck that I did not have time to enter.
     The following is a brief recounting of a lowlights and highlights of my brief visit.
     A surfeit of tents were devoted to comic books and graphic novels.  (I have no problem with them and still occasionally enjoy them, but they should not dominate.
     During a brief colloquy at the stand of Book Publicists of Southern California (where I was twice proclaimed to look like a "discriminating reader"--either because of my copy of The European Philosophers from Descartes to Nietzsche and my Les Misérables journal or because that man said that to everybody who approached the tent), another man hawked his book with alacrity.  The book's content: interviews of the "victims" of Hollywood's anti-communist blacklists (remember when Hollywood was anti-communist?).  He stated that his subjects fought to get "minorities" (including blacks--an actual minority--and women) jobs in the motion picture industry, "put[ting] their asses on the line."  He did not mention that they lied to their employers and were members (or fellow travelers) of an organization that engaged in criminal (violent) activity in the service of one of the most (if not the most) destructive, deadly, anti-mind, anti-individualism, and fundamentally anti-human ("minority" and otherwise) ideologies ever propagated.  I was about to say, "If you are trying to sell [note the irony] a book that sympathizes with Hollywood communists, you are talking to the wrong individual."  Lingering difficulties with verbal communication, coupled with the fact that this middle-aged man appeared to be beyond reason or redemption, effected a restraint on my part.  Perhaps I should have at least asked him about "the other blacklist" (in which those notorious blacklist-haters have blackballed non-leftists like me from their industry) and asked if he could get this "minority" a job.  (Friends of Abe, the non-leftist group of Hollywood professionals, refuses to divulge their members' identities despite the tolerance, open-mindedness, non-judgmental nature, and aversion to blacklists of most of the industry.)  I just gave him "the cold shoulder."  Although I reserve most of my activism to writing, I will try to be more outspoken in the future.  (Practice makes perfect.)
     For relief, I sought, then found, the Ayn Rand Institute booth.
     There was not much activity at the tent representing the most valid philosophy in history (and only significant Aristoelian, Enlightment afterglow of any significant size or influence in the Endarkenment).  But what activity I saw and engaged in was encouraging, if only slightly.  Since I already owned most of the books the handful of people behind the table were selling, I did not purchase any.  I did introduce myself and say "hello" to a few new acquaintances, however (who would just as soon not be named in this weblog, I would guess).  I mentioned a mutual (and legendary, in certain circles anyway) friend (who has been named in this weblog, with his enthusiastic approval).  It was a relief to encounter rational minds, in person, when they are becoming increasingly rare (and confined to Internet communication).  I picked up a bookmark and information on the Ayn Rand Archives (since I am spending an inordinate amount of time in Orange County, I might as well make an appointment to visit them).
     I did not encounter any warm, loving, caring, empathetic, open-minded leftist (or religious) hecklers (I heard reports of them at the previous festival I attended in Westwood).  However, I did see a young woman who was unusually sanguine and congenial (like those representing ARI) ask for information about Ayn Rand with acute alacrity.  She was wearing a T-shirt with the printed legend, "Schrödinger's Cat is Dead."  The joke can have a number of meetings, but my impression was that the gal was ridiculing quantum theory (and perhaps its post-Kantian, subjectivist epistemology and underpinnings as well) and that the young woman was sincere, earnest, and smart.  (Most people who are unfamiliar with Schrödinger and his cat, and most of those who are probably find it uncontroversial.)
     I have doubts that the (growing) minority of rational minds can saturate the dark Endarkenment with the light of reason and stave off another Dark Ages, but I will certainly do what I can to help (and live a more "examined life" doing it than I otherwise would).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A World of Hope

In the later stages of an anti-reason Endarkenment, a culture lover with a love of and respect for reason cherishes the vestigial afterglow of better times that remind us of an enlightened past and its living artifacts as well as their reminders of the potential and basic decency that can still be found in life and most of its people.  At this point, there is not much of that left in any "serious," "adult" art and culture after the nineteenth century (and the further past the nineteenth century the less likely one is to find it).  As time goes on, it primarily exists in "popular culture."  Even popular culture has devolved to a nadir of "serious" and "realistic" naturalism (itself a misnomer in the context of aesthetics) that could inspire the most serious and realistic (and childless) of adults (this one, anyway) to turn to the world of family entertainment.  Which brings me to The Walt Disney Company (and its media and parks) in general and a specific recent celebration in particular.
     It is a marvel of increasingly archaic capitalist hegemony (the best kind of hegemony) and the awesome productivity of a free(er), bygone age (its world-famous, benevolent majordomo emphasized the virtues of the free enterprise system and refused public funds for the construction of his sui generis parks).  For that reason alone, it (and its empire of trade) is notable.  Moreover, when serious culture flaunts the unintelligible, the decadent, the explicitly anti-rational, and the depraved, a noble soul with a love of culture and story finds the intelligible, the clean, the rational (implicit or otherwise), and the dignified wherever he can, regardless of its (appropriate, given its all-ages audience) limits.  (A careful, thorough, and logical dissection and analysis of Disney fare would find many of its detractors' criticisms lacking--but that is another topic for another day.)  If one must choose, in an age of false alternatives, between the likes of Humbert Humbert & Holden Caulfield & Tyler Durden on the one hand and Belle & Johnny Tremaine & Peter Pan on the other, one may be better suited choosing the latter (and the alternative may not be entirely false, considering either the latters' original literary sources or their Disney filters).  And the spectacle of Disney's parks, with its history and subtle reminder of what America (and capitalism) used to be, reminds the most pessimistic realist that the Endarkenment hasn't smothered the Earth in complete darkness yet.  While researching an article, I purchased an annual pass to the Disneyland Resort (since it would pay for itself in just a few visits).  It has helped this quasi-misanthrope and taciturn pessimist remind himself that, even in the twenty-first century, technology isn't all that is marvelous and rational.
     Two days ago, all five Disney Parks simultaneously participated in a celebration: the 50th anniversary of it's a small world.
     The ride (in a smaller, embryonic iteration) apparently debuted at the New York World's Fair on April 10, 1964 after its individual components were designed and constructed in Southern California.   (My mother and her family attended the fair and rode the ride in 1964 or '5.)  The ride was shipped back across the continent, expanded, and reopened at Disneyland in Anaheim in 1966 with its new, magnificent clock tower exterior (which its counterpart in Florida--"the imitation Disneyland" and "copycat" according to Disneyland partisans--does not have).  Supposedly, 1965 shipping stickers are still visible on the backs of some of the dolls in Anaheim.  (The ride was originally conceived as Children of the World.  He commissioned the brothers Robert and Richard Sherman to write a song for the ride.  They delivered "It's a Small World (After All)" and performed it to Walt Disney and some of his staff.  Disney was so enamored of the song he changed the name of the ride.)
     The Walt Disney Company and Disney Parks like to celebrate.  On Thursday, they did--temporally at all five of their parks and for posterity on the Internet.  Given my renascent interest in Disney's life and work (including his original park) and my familial background, I attended the celebration nearest me (at the original ride itself).  The Anaheim events were somewhat anticlimactic, if only because they were sparsely attended (it was a weekday in April--hopefully the sparse attendance had as much to do with industry as with indifference or destitution).  But they could have warmed the cockles of all but the most unregenerate, incorrigible cynics and nihilists.
     The famous ride was reopened for the first time in weeks (if not a few months).  A gargantuan "50" adorned the towers.  (Since I was riding the non-"holiday" edition of this particular ride for the first time since 1984, I do not know what, if anything, changed inside the ride since its last refurbishment a few years ago.)  Richard, the surviving Sherman brother, was interviewed in a "Google event" in front of the attraction in the early afternoon.  He is a youthful, wiry eighty-five who could pass for seventy-five.  He looks like a smaller Walter Matthau.  He (consistently) projects an air of the simple (but valid) innocence and benevolence that his famous song projects.  He sat at a piano on a riser while a bright-eyed (if not bushy-tailed) twentyish personality interviewed him.   A gaggle of local press and other media professionals stood in front of the two with camera eyes and microphone ears in a fairly large area encircled by rope.  Consequently, I stood relatively far away in a small crowd.  The event was broadcast live on the Internet, but the microphones were not amplified loudly (effecting hearing difficulty and contributing to the idea that this was a podcast and not an immediate, temporal gathering).  The interviewers eyes, smile, and brown bangs were much louder than her and her interlocutor's voices.  I think I could ascertain a few fascinating highlights of the discussion, however.  He and his brother disagreed about "everything" but found a way to "compromise" when composing (the best kind of compromise).  He and his brother had no hand in designing the ride (besides composing its theme song).  And no one "except perhaps Walt" had the slightest premonition of the song's staying power when they performed it for the first time.  Following the interview, he performed a Sherman Brothers song at the piano I did not recognize (it was not "Stay Awake" from Mary Poppins).
     About a half hour later, the Disneyland Band marched from Fantasyland around the right of the infamous "Hub" to Main Street, USA performing a brass arrangement of Richard's work.  He sat behind them in the Disneyland Fire Engine, leading the gathered small crowd (and the procession behind him) in a singalong of the gentle anthem in his avuncular, understated, gentle, warm burr of a baritone.  At least, that was the idea.  I don't recall anyone singing but he.  It didn't seem to matter or undercut the song's spirit, though, and he didn't seem to mind.  He wondered that fifty years had transpired and the song was as prominent as ever.  Then he playfully kidded, "And I'm only thirty-five years old!
     My day at the park started and ended with a boat ride through the "small world."  Perhaps it has aspects that are superficial (even "simplistic"), but the theme of universal basic human decency, dignity, and benevolence was realistic and relevant--perhaps more than ever in these dark times.  (And the Shermans' song's melody and relative sophistication reminds the knowledgeable listener how much popular music has imploded since then--actually, since the 1980s.)  It's certainly true that the world is smaller than ever.  At the ride's climax--known as the "goodbye room"--the boats travel past a series of oversized postcards printed with various legends (including "goodbye" in various languages).  The final postcard is an advertisement for the ride's current sponsor, Sylvania.  Whether mere advertisement or more, it states: "A bright world is waiting."
     These days, that is easy to forget, but it is still true in myriad ways.

Postscript (04/14/14): According to a 1989 monument on the site that commemorated the attraction's  twenty-fifth anniversary, the "first voyage" was on April 22, 1964.  Perhaps the celebration date of Thursday, April 10 was an arbitrary date based company convenience and/or Richard Sherman's availability (though it seems like an unlikely day of the week for such an event--and Sherman is presumably not terribly busy at this stage of his life).

Richard Sherman answering a question at the piano.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Multiculturalism": Proof That It's Not About Diversity

Are you familiar with Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
     Pardon the redundancy, but she is female.  (She is also a woman's rights activist.)  She was born in Somalia (and, yes, she is twice as black as the "first black president").  She is an atheist.
     She looks like an optimal candidate for a worthless honorary degree from a worthless (but prestigious) citadel of "reason," "tolerance," and "open-mindedness," does she not?
     Apparently, those who run Brandeis University, one of those worthless (but prestigious) honorary institutions, thought so.  Then they changed their minds.  (I realize it is a stretch, in many cases, to refer to the postmodern vacuums between the perky ears of the typical twenty-first century academic as a "mind"--perhaps I am more generous than they.)
     Why did the powers that be at that venerated (but not venerable) institution in Massachusetts withdraw Ali's honorary degree?
     What could that African-born atheistic female "feminist" have possibly done to effect a withdraw of so coveted a holy grail as a Brandeis honorary doctorate from those erudite, recondite (and open-minded) guardians of the vestiges of Western civilization?  Join the John Birch Society?  Become an Austrian economist? Praise Ayn Rand publicly?  Point out that John Fitzgerald Kennedy admired Adolf Hitler (after Hitler's death)?  Become a born-again Christian?  Identify James Joyce as the ultimate naked emperor?  Express doubt that Vincent Foster committed suicide?  Opine that, guilty or not, Clarence Thomas was less oppressive to women than Bill Clinton?
     (As an aside: Ali knows something about oppression of women.  She is a victim of it--even more of a victim than Clinton's victims.  She was a victim of bad old-fashioned non-Western genital mutilation.  I doubt Clinton or his diminutive digit ever destroyed a woman's genitalia.  However, unlike many "feminists" who were born in the West and were less oppressed than she, she does not act like a victim.)
     As far as I know, she did committed none of those unspeakable crimes against humanity and academic decency and orthodoxy.
     She criticized the religion that oppressed her: Islam.
     Is this something those sapient teachers, writers, researchers, scholars, and administrators could have been ignorant of?  Hardly.  Ali is well-known for excoriating the religion of peace for most of her life.  (She knows how peaceful it is, first-hand.)  Even a Brandeis University administrator likely picked up on it long before the decision to hand her a diploma.
     Apparently, the secular "Western" university administration buckled under criticism from Muslim groups and decided to withdraw the "honor."  To the accepting, tolerant multicult, some religions are apparently more equal than others.  (The left-leaning Richard Dawkins--author of The God Delusion--ridiculed Christianity for years without reprisal from the "intellectuals."  When even they finally figured out that he loathed Islam, too, the response of many of them was likely similar to their shock when they learned that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.)
     Mark Steyn (a conservative whom I often disagree with) has commented on the matter: "The Wretched Jelly-Spined Nothing Enunchs of Brandeis".  You should read all of it.
     Those of us with intact minds who know how to use them have been trying to point out--some of us for decades--that the phenomena of multiculturalism, post-modernism, and the far Left that infested academia and its handmaiden, the media long before I was born are not "open-minded" or "tolerant."  (I once overheard  a "liberal" define the term as "open-minded.")  We have been trying to point out that "multiculturalism"--the alleged view that all cultures are equal (except, of course, Western civilization)--is more about destruction and nihilism and anti-Westernism than it is about "equality" and "tolerance."  We are usually scoffed at and sniggered at by the warmhearted, loving, caring, compassionate, empathetic denizens of the nihilist left, but they are starting to prove us right--and provide us with the laughs, at their expense.
     If they are not replaced by what Rand called "new intellectuals"--and the clock is ticking--everyone on the planet will endure something like Ali did, but, unlike her, they will have nowhere to go to escape it.

Postscript: I promise that my next post will focus on a vestige of a better past that, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, still shines in the cultural darkness.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Murder of Justice in the Case of Mary Sullivan: A Philosophical Autopsy

Previous installments:

A headline yesterday from the weblog of the inestimable Radley Balko reminded me of the ongoing scandals regarding crime evidence laboratories in Massachusetts and with Attorney General Martha Coakley (loser, n. a Democratic US Senate candidate from Massachusetts beaten by a Massachusetts Republican).  (These scandals were mentioned here previously).  These particular scandals are apparently limited to cases involving the War on Some Drugs.  Even if that is the case, they are hardly irrelevant to the latest reports (and their extent) in the ongoing trials of the individuals (Mary Sullivan et. al.) and their families (Sullivan, Sherman, et. al.) who did not receive anything resembling justice in the interminable, stranger-than-fiction parade of inanity that is the “Boston Strangler” case.
                In the 1960s, American culture was not insignificantly different from American culture now.  While the institutions (universities; art museums; courts and other government departments, offices, and organs staffed and run by professionals educated in the humanities; media outlets; et. al.) were very much under the influence (though to a lesser extent than they are fifty years later) of a modern and “postmodern” European-influenced intellectual zeitgeist that has not changed in essence since the nineteenth century, the “regular people” on the street (including, in many cases at the time, police officers) were still reflective of a better, American, justice- and common-sense oriented past.  A few years earlier, the Superman television series (as well as countless other works of popular culture, from Mickey Spillane’s novels to television series starring Robert Stack and Raymond Burr) proudly promoted the ideals of “truth, justice, and the American way,” and meant it.  Not-so-intellectual Americans, their minds and attention spans not yet destroyed by “whole language, “ the “look-say” method of learning to read, and eMpTyV Networks, flocked to stylized epic films like Lawrence of Arabia and The Sound of Music.  Rock and roll stars like Jan and Dean and The Beach Boys exuded a musical, melodic sensibility and sophistication (not to mention sartorial eloquence, to borrow their fan Elton John’s phrase) that most punk rockers and rappers could not begin to understand.  About a decade later, when a president of the United States was accused of misconduct that would pale in comparison to some of his successors, Americans demanded his impeachment, and he resigned in disgrace.  Police were more interested in actually “protecting and serving” Americans more than government, they were more concerned with fighting crime than ratcheting up arrests and fines of “crimes” without victims, and they often put themselves at serious risk before endangering bystanders or mindlessly shooting innocent “suspects.”
                The contemporaneous cops are not the villains in the “Boston Strangler” case.  A perusal of previous installments in this series, and a perusal of Susan Kelly’s TheBoston Stranglers, will prove that to an interested reader.  The police at the time were not fooled by Albert DeSalvo’s false confessions, nor did they pretend to accept them for reasons of expediency.  The respective police departments (the Boston Police Department, the Cambridge Police Department, the Lawrence Police Department, and the Salem Police Department) did their jobs well (the way most of H.G. Wells’s Eloi believe today’s cops do their jobs) , and inductively adduced evidence to build cases against better suspects for the disparate murders in each department’s own jurisdiction.  The contemporaneous media, at least one contemporaneous administrative figure, and at least one defense attorney, however, have some answering to do.
                Writers and lawyers (especially at the time) tend to be more intellectual, and more educated, than the general population (though one would not necessarily get that impression from reading the writing of reporters covering the “Boston Strangler” case at the time).  Like most people, writers and lawyers (though perhaps to a lesser extent at the time) tend to be conformists who unquestionably absorb (whether consciously or subconsciously) the principles (including the self-refuting principle of opposition to principles) they are directly and indirectly taught.  What were they taught?
                In general, they were taught the dominant post-Enlightenment (i.e., Endarkenment)  intellectual trends: in metaphysics, metaphysical dualism and the primacy of consciousness; in epistemology, irrationalism, the supremacy and superiority of unreason (faith or feeling), and the replacement of Aristotelian reason with Kantian “pure reason” and Hegelian “dialectical reason;” in ethics, altruism and collectivism (the subordination of the individual, including individual crime victims, to the group or collective); and in politics, statism and authoritarianism (the subordination of the individual, including individual crime victims, to the state and its authority).
                To be brief: after Immanuel Kant killed the Enlightenment with the publication of his Critique of Pure Reason in 1781, intellectuals in the West rejected an integrated, Aristotelian world view of reason and individualism.  For a few reasons (partly because the terms “reason” and “individualism” and “freedom” were still popular and marketable to a public that held them as vague, woozy ideals and did not really understand them), the intellectuals (until fairly recently) continued to claim fealty to those ideals: Kant was an advocate of “pure reason,” which, unlike Aristotelian reason, was divorced from reality and the world of sense perception and was limited to internally consistent, immanent mental manipulations; Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel posited a “dialectical reason” and averred that contradictions are built into reality and reason, rejecting Aristotle’s Laws of Identity and Non-Contradiction; and  individualism was a superficial matter of self-expression, not a metaphysical fact with ethical and political implications—the primary unit of reality was mankind or society (to which freedom alone applied), in which the individual is a semi-real fragment subordinated to a fundamental whole.  The latter is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s transcendentalism, an American pseudo-individualism which supplanted the Enlightenment individualism of the founding fathers in the minds (such as they were) of post-Enlightenment American intellectuals.  For decades in the nineteenth century (and beyond, to this day), such views were hammered into the numb skulls of university students and cultural figures.  [Cf. Peikoff, Leonard. The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America (New York: Stein and Day, 1982) or Hicks, Stephen R. C., Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Rev. Ed., no city: Ockham’s Razor Publishing, 2011) as expository supplements to reading the original sources themselves.  A good source for condensed excerpts of Kant and Hegel is Beardsley, Monroe C., ed. The European Philosophers from Descartes to Nietzsche (New York: The Modern Library, 1960).  For antipodal antidotes, I recommend Adler, Mortimer J. Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy (New York: Touchstone, 1978); McKeon, Richard, ed., The Basic Works of Aristotle (New York: Random House, 1941); Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Dutton, 1991); and Rand’s own numerous works. ]  This cultural trend developed, in America, into pragmatism.
                Pragmatism has been described by supporters and detractors alike as the only American contribution to philosophy.  It is American in terms of its geographical origins and its embrace of the emotional, empiricist, "practical," and materialist sides of the false dichotomies of reason versus emotion, rationalism versus empiricism, theory versus practice, moral versus practical, and idealism versus materialism, respectively, but it is essentially a rehash of Kantian and Hegelian European philosophy.  It is certainly antipodal and antithetical to America and Americanism (and has been integral in destroying both).  (One Internet commentator, whose name I have forgotten, remarked that Pragmatism is actually the least “pragmatic” philosophy, but the meaning and etymology of the term “pragmatic” is a subject for another time.)  In short, its tenets are that reality is a whirling, Heraclitean flux of transient phenomena molded into shape by a collective consciousness (which precedes that reality); man is primarily an actor, not a thinker; that an idea is a plan of action; that the purpose of an idea is to remove obstacles from an actor’s path (for the moment, which is about all that the pragmatist recognizes); that the consequences of an idea cannot be known in advance but only after the “plan of action” has been effected; and that principles and abstractions are harmful and/or illusory because they do not deal with the complexities of the immediate moment.  It is a philosophy that explicitly exhorts expediency and unthinking action while denigrated and castigating principled thought.  (Progressive education, pioneered by the arch-pragmatist John Dewey, dispensed with logic, thought, and abstractions and promulgated a militantly anti-conceptual, percept-oriented form of learning devoid of subject matter, curriculum, rules, and individual consciousness in favor of “freedom,” pragmatic “life skills,” group identity, and “social consciousness.”)  (It occurs to me that if a pragmatist or fellow traveler were to read this in the midst of his daily routine of flux surfing and myopic, concrete-bound contingency obsession, its abstract “monism” would have raised his hackles paragraphs ago, and his progressive education stunted attention span would have caused him to stop reading, his eyes glazed over, a few sentences past that.)
                Pragmatism (and progressive education) took root in America around the end of the nineteenth century and became the vanguard.  They were bludgeoned into the brains of university students and intellectuals for decades and generations.  While the general public (including police at the time) were generally insulated from the corrosive effects of pragmatism (and progressive education had  not yet completely disintegrated their minds), that was not the case for the administrators, lawyers, and journalists.  It is a certainty that the likes of F. Lee Bailey, Strangler Task Force leader (and future Massachusetts Attorney General) John Bottomly, and the reporters of the local and national press at the time were thoroughly immersed in pragmatist doctrines (and those of pragmatism’s forerunners and influences).  (Most of those that were not immersed in them directly immersed themselves indirectly, by professional association, by the osmosis that occurs in every culture and subculture.)
                Did F. Lee Bailey believe DeSalvo was “the Boston Strangler”?  To this day, he apparently insists it.  However, what kind of reasonably intelligent individual, familiar with the following facts (as Bailey was, or should have been), would have believed that?
1.       No physical evidence placed DeSalvo at any of the crime scenes.  (This was certainly true until 2013, and it is probably still true—see above and below.)
2.       Physical evidence at some of the crime scenes tended to exonerate him (including cigarette butts that DeSalvo, as a nonsmoker, could not have left).
3.       No eyewitness in the case could identify him.
4.       Despite his vaunted eidetic (photographic) memory, which several people (including his antagonist prison psychiatrist, Dr. Ames Robey, marveled at), DeSalvo’s confessions are riddled with errors (see below)—the kinds of errors that a killer with a normal (or even below normal) memory would not have made (particularly one who desperately wanted to be known as a killer).
5.       In regards to Mary Sullivan: DeSalvo (during his first interrogation) did not appear to know about the particularly barbaric atrocity inflicted on Sullivan with a broom handle (despite the fact that even author Gerold Frank acknowledged “it was common knowledge on the streets”).  Someone had apparently filled him in on this common knowledge before his second attempt at confessing to Sullivan’s murder.
6.       Also in regards to Sullivan’s murder, DeSalvo claimed that he bludgeoned Sullivan over the head and raped her.  The autopsy report contradicted those claims.
7.       DeSalvo, a nonsmoker, did not explain why Salem cigarette butts were found in Sullivan’s apartment.  (Sullivan and her roommates did not smoke Salems.)
8.       The semen stains found on Sullivan’s blanket reportedly contained no spermatozoa.  DeSalvo, a virle man who fathered at least two children, could not have left them.
9.       A constellation of evidence implicates another suspect in Sullivan’s murder (including the fact that he apparently never became a father).
10.   The conflicting m.o.’s, criminal signatures, and natures of the disparate victims strongly pointed to multiple killers (DeSalvo claimed to be responsible for them all).
11.   DeSalvo had multiple motives for falsely confessing.
12.   DeSalvo was never charged with homicide, and virtually no cops believed he was a killer.

Bailey, one of the most overrated mountebanks in the history of that fallen profession, insisted he openly identified DeSalvo as “the Strangler” in court in an unrelated assault trial so that he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity and placed in a mental hospital.  DeSalvo was found guilty and sentenced to prison.  Whatever Bailey’s motives, Bailey profited from his association with DeSalvo, taking the money he promised him from the sale of his life story to Gerold Frank and Twentieth Century-Fox.   Bailey may have seen an opportunity to eschew principles (such as justice and fidelity to one’s client’s interests) and make a killing (if you’ll pardon the pun).  His actions (including those in future cases) certainly comport with pragmatism.
                John Maynard Keyes (the economist and kindred spirit of pragmatism) famously remarked, “In the long run, we are all dead.”  In the long run, contra Keynes, Bailey is still alive.  He not only lost this case, but he famously bollixed the defense of Patty Hearst.  He was eventually disbarred.  Pragmatism is hazardous to health, short- and long-term.
                More important than the defense attorney in this case are the actions of some of those who claimed to act in the interests of society.  One passage in Susan Kelly’s book explicitly describes  one insider’s view of the decision-making process of Republican Strangler Task Force leader John Bottomly.  Did Bottomly believe DeSalvo was “the Strangler”?  He certainly thought that the young man whom I call Robert Greene was a viable suspect in the murder of Mary Sullivan, and transcripts of his interrogations with DeSalvo strongly imply he did not believe the criminal.  (He asserted that he doubted a grand jury would “buy his story.”)  According to the aforementioned insider, the Republican Bottomly (in a classic example of Republican Party pragmatism) thought he knew the identity of the killer or killers, knew that they would be incarcerated for a very long time, and thought he could save taxpayers the cost of a trial.  (He also loudly trumpeted his role in “catching the Boston Strangler” in future political races and profited handsomely when he served as a consultant to Twentieth Century-Fox’s fiction film on the case.)  His pragmatism may have done more to occlude justice in this case than anyone else’s (other than DeSalvo’s, anyway).  Before his death, he was disgraced after it was discovered that scores of thousands of dollars of bonds were missing from his office.  In the long run, Bottomly was dead, but he still apparently suffered the consequences of his amoral pragmatism anyway.
                DeSalvo?  He lied (and obstructed justice) because Bailey told him he would be convicted of unrelated “Green Man” crimes (which was true) and would spend decades in prison (which was false).  He was told that if he “confessed,” he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity.  (He would also profit from  the sale of his life story.)  He was found guilty of the “Green Man” crimes and sentenced to (essentially) life in prison (the length of his sentence was due entirely to his false confession in the more heinous crimes) .  Bailey (and others) profited off of his “story,” but he didn’t.  He was murdered in prison in 1973, at the age of forty-two (in an incident apparently unrelated to the “Strangler” case).  DeSalvo was dead in the relatively short run, but his pragmatism has victims that are very much alive, decades later.
                The contemporaneous press?  I know little about the writers and editors of the newspaper accounts I have read (aside from the fact that they could not write or edit well).  For whatever reason, they decided to downplay the evidence exonerating DeSalvo and report to the public (a public who put undue trust in them to investigate facts and report truth) that there was only one “Strangler” and DeSalvo was he.  Perhaps they were indolent, and thinking about the truth, and reporting it, would have taxed their dull minds.  Perhaps they believed they could sell more newspapers.  Perhaps they believed there was a “greater good” in mollifying the public that the “killer” was behind bars and that the criminal justice system (which was still generally accurately named back then) “worked.”  Perhaps more than one of the above motives applied to the professionals.  However, the facts in this case were clear enough that even journalists should have understood them.  A much likelier explanation: they were pragmatists.  (Pragmatism, while it had not yet completely penetrated the minds of the general public, had infiltrated “cultured” Americans.)
                Their readers at the time were generally common sense oriented (far more than they are now).  However, they believed (with more justification than their counterparts today) that the reporters and editors were honest, competent people like them.  Most of them were too busy (in the days when America was still essentially a free and prosperous country) earning an honest living, sedulously applying themselves to industry and productivity, to look into such affairs themselves.  After all, it wasn’t their job.
                Decades passed, and authorities who knew all of the facts enumerated above (and then some, including the fact that private DNA tests exonerated DeSalvo and implicated the prime suspect in Sullivan’s murder) decided to surreptitiously obtain DNA from DeSalvo’s nephew and compare it to DNA from the Sullivan crime scene.  What does it say about the honesty and competence of authorities (leaving aside the issues with Attorney General Martha Coakley and the Massachusetts state crime labs) who would not first compare it to the prime suspect’s DNA?  Is there reason to believe they are interested in truth, or are they interested in something else?  What does it say about the honesty and competence of today’s fourth estate that they are neither asking the questions I am asking nor reporting on the discrepancies between the private and public DNA tests?  John Bottomly’s successors (in more ways than one) have announced that DeSalvo’s DNA places him at the crime scene and that he “probably” committed the other murders (which they conveniently cannot investigate because they claim there is no more usable DNA evidence).  How could the same man commit multiple murders that were obviously committed by multiple individuals to every honest investigator at the time?  And what kind of news media would report the DNA results with the headline “Questions Answered” (as one television station did) when it is obvious that such announcements raised far more questions (some of which I have raised) than they have answered?
                Retired Salem Police Department Lieutenant John Moran, who was certain he knew the identity of the killer in the one “Strangler” crime that took place under his jurisdiction (but lacked the evidence to arrest him), told Kelly, “There are a lot more killers walking the streets than behind bars.”
If one understands the state of American culture over the last several decades, it is not difficult to see why.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Murder of Mary Sullivan: Reinvestigation(s)

Note: the same disclaimer to the previous two installments applies here.  Some of these events and accompanied descriptions are graphic and unpleasant.   Please read part one and at least skim over part two if you have not already (or to reacquaint yourself with the case).  This chronology chronicles the last twenty years of this fifty-year-long (and counting) tragedy and its victims (living and dead).

Spring 1994: The day after Mary Sullivan’s mother’s funeral, Sullivan’s nephew Casey Sherman begins his television career at WHDH in Boston (which, at this time, is the city’s CBS affiliate).  He plans to use his eventual television connections and influence to report on his aunt’s unsolved murder and reopen “The Boston Strangler” case.

Fall 1994: Sean DeSalvo, Albert DeSalvo’s twenty-seven-year-old nephew, is arrested for kidnapping and attempted rape.  DeSalvo’s wife claims he had threatened her.  The charges are eventually dismissed.

1995: David Sullivan, Mary’s brother, dies suddenly of a heart attack.  Sherman attributes the premature death to an anguish that lingered after his aunt’s death (and never dissipated).

December 1996: After a period working in television news in New Haven, Connecticut, Sherman takes a job as a producer at WBZ-4 in Boston.

Winter 1997: During a story meeting at WBZ-4, Sherman proposes an idea for a story on the unsolved “Boston Strangler” case and his family’s place in it.  His boss inquires if his family will appear on camera.  Sherman responds, “Absolutely.”

Winter 1997: Sherman calls DeSalvo’s brother Frank and asks him to help reinvestigate the case, sit for an on-camera interview, and possibly exonerate his brother.  Frank refuses.

Winter 1997: Sherman calls DeSalvo’s brother Richard and asks him to reinvestigate the case, sit for an on-camera interview, and possibly exonerate his brother.  Richard invites Sherman to meet him at his home in Chelmsford, MA but refuses to commit to anything.

March 1997: Sherman meets Richard DeSalvo, his wife Rosalie, and his son Timothy at Richard’s and Rosalie’s Chelmsford home.  Richard tells Sherman that the elder DeSalvo told him that he falsely confessed to the murders because F. Lee Bailey assured him that he would be hospitalized in lieu of prison and that he would be well-compensated for the sale of his life story.  Richard adds that Bailey took all of the money.  Sherman asks Richard if his brother ever told him that he was not the Strangler; Richard replies that he did profess his innocence privately.  Richard adds, “I’ve told reporters for years that Albert wasn’t the guy, but they just don’t listen.  They just write what they want to write.”  Richard declines to appear on camera, and Sherman asks him to let him know if he changes his mind.

Spring 1997: WBZ-4 airs a story with an interview of Sherman’s mother, Diane Sullivan Dodd.  According to Sherman, his mother is the first relative of a “Strangler” victim to publicly doubt DeSalvo’s guilt.  Sherman contacts the Cold Case Squad of the Boston Police Department, reminding them that his aunt’s murder case remains open.  He proposes DNA testing but is met with resistance and lack of interest.

July 9, 1999: The Boston Globe reports that the BPD’s Cold Case Squad is reinvestigating the “Strangler” case and plans to test DNA evidence.  The report quotes Captain Tim Murray of the Squad who has not returned any of Sherman’s voicemail messages regarding DNA tests.  BPD Commissioner Paul Evans immediately denies the reports, insisting that the press misreported what is little more than a training exercise for their lab technicians.  

July 10, 1999: Sherman calls the BPD.  Spokeswoman Margot Hill tells him that the department is “very sympathetic” to his interest but that there is no remaining crime scene evidence to be tested.  Sherman calls the crime lab; a technician assures him that there are indeed at least a dozen boxes of evidence extant.  Sherman and his mother resolve to find Mary’s killer.

July 11, 1999: Albert DeSalvo’s thirty-seven-year-old son Michael contacts Sherman at work.  After Sherman receives confirmation from Richard that this is indeed his nephew, Sherman calls Michael back.  Michael tells him that he wishes to clear his father’s name and asks for Sherman’s help.  They agree to meet at a bar in Quincy that evening.  DeSalvo tells Sherman that he was raised on an army base  in Germany as “Mike Nichols.”  His mother Irmgard remarried when he was very young, and he had no recollection of his father.  When he tried to enlist in the army at age eighteen, the officials would not accept his identification.  His mother sent him his birth certificate.  A staff sergeant told that his father was “the Boston Strangler.”  Michael spent the next several years drifting and abusing substances, wondering if he had “inherited” his father’s alleged murderous nature.  After watching an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, he learned that many people doubted his father’s guilt.  Now clean and sober, he blames F. Lee Bailey for cozening and exploiting his father and indirectly causing his incarceration and death.

October 1999: Michael sits for a WBZ on-camera interview produced by Sherman.  “I will go to any length to clear my dad’s name,” he says emphatically.  He adds that he is willing to donate blood for DNA testing.

November 7, 1999: At 11:00PM EST, WBZ broadcasts Michael DeSalvo’s interview.

November 8, 1999: The Boston press widely reports Michael DeSalvo’s interview.  A boy recognizes Michael on the street and calls him “the Boston Strangler;” he immediately relapses and returns to rehab.  WBZ reporter Charlie Austin asks Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly about reopening the “Strangler” case.  Reilly iterates that his office never charged DeSalvo in any of the murders and added that he is willing to meet with the victims’ families to discuss their concerns.  Reilly telephones Sherman and asks him to “state his case.”  The Attorney General of Massachusetts, in an admission of shocking ignorance, acknowledges that he is not familiar with the case but offered to peruse the case files and see if there were grounds for reinvestigation.

November 1999: The Boston Herald reports that Dr. Ames Robey supports exhuming his late patient for purposes of DNA testing.  The newspaper also publishes an interview with seventy-five-year-old retired BPD officer Jim Mellon, one of the first officers to arrive at Mary Sullivan’s crime scene.  ("Jim Mellon" may or may not be a pseudonym invented by Sherman.)  Sherman contacts Mellon.  Mellon tells Sherman that multiple murderers were responsible for the crimes attributed to the “Boston Strangler.”  He adds that he is “positive” his aunt was murdered by the boyfriend of one of her roommates.  Sherman mentions Robert Greene’s name.  (A reminder: this name has been changed.)  “That’s your guy,” Mellon replies.  Mellon elaborates that he retired in 1985 after being passed over for several promotions because he wouldn’t “play ball” regarding the “Strangler” case.  Despite his career problems, he and his wife live comfortably on his pension in a beach house in Bailey’s hometown of Marshfield.  Mellon reiterates, “[Y]ou find Robert Greene, and you’ll find the real killer!”  Sherman asks Mellon for his help; Mellon assures Sherman he is there for him.  Sherman uses the investigative resources of his employer to track down Greene.  He telephones him and asks if he’d be willing to discuss the case.  A nervous Greene admits he failed two polygraphs, refuses to submit a DNA sample without a court order, and abruptly hangs up.  Sherman phones Mellon back and reports on the discussion.  Mellon reaffirms that he believes in Greene’s guilt and pledges to help the Sherman family in any way he can (including attending an upcoming meeting with the Attorney General’s Office).  Sherman phones Richard DeSalvo, who agrees to form an alliance to find Sullivan’s real killer and clear his brother’s name.

March 11, 2000: Two days prior to the upcoming meeting with the Attorney General’s Office to discuss the open murder cases with the victims’ families, Sherman receives a call from the Boston police officer in charge of the homicide division and Cold Case Squad.  When asked by Sherman if he would attend the meeting, the officer responds, “No, I won’t be there.  And if I were you, I’d stay away from this case.    this case is a lot bigger than a bunch of strangled women.    We don’t want to set  a precedent here.  It’s not the purpose of the cold case squad to go back and reinvestigate unsolved murders.”

March 13, 2000: Assistant Attorney General Gerry Leone meets with the DeSalvo and Sherman families. (Jim Mellon is also present.  He previously advised Sherman, “Son, this isn’t just about the Boston Strangler.  …. What about the would-be Albert DeSalvos out there?  The suspects who were pressured to confess to a crime they didn’t commit.  The state has a finger in the dyke right now, but once they pull that finger out, the flooding begins.”)  Attorney General Tom Reilly is not present.  Sherman reminds Leone that copious evidence exists that can now be tested.  His response: “[R]ight now the Boston Police Department says it has no more physical evidence from the murder of Mary Sullivan.  Boston says the case is no longer a priority.  We defer to them.  There’s really nothing we can do for you here.”  When Sherman parries, “I was told by a police official just yesterday to stay away from this case.  I was told that it was a lot bigger than a bunch of strangled women.  Is there something that no one wants us to find out here?” Leone defensively counters, “There’s no conspiracy going on here.  And besides, does anyone really believe DeSalvo is the Strangler anymore?”  BPD spokeswoman Margot Hill subsequently comments, “We feel for [the families], and we share in their frustration, but we don’t have a probative DNA sample to go forward.”  The Sullivan and DeSalvo families resolve to get evidence tested and compared themselves.

May 11, 2000: The Shermans, the DeSalvos, and their attorneys Dan Sharp & Elaine Whitfield Sharp hold a press conference in Boston announcing their intent to reinvestigate Mary Sullivan’s murder and clear Albert DeSalvo’s name.   The Sharps distribute copies of letters they had sent to several law enforcement agencies (including the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office) requesting the release of evidence related to the case.  Immediately afterward, the Attorney General comments to a reporter that he sympathizes with the families and leans toward granting them the materials.

May 12, 2000: The Boston Police Department issues a statement: “Due to the passage of time, the deterioration of the evidence, and the likelihood that successful testing cannot be performed on the evidence which remains in Boston Police custody, the Boston Police Department has declined to participate in further investigation into the Boston Strangler case.”

2000: Retired Barnstable County Sheriff Nick Eldredge (this name may or may not be Sherman's pseudonym) meets with Sherman to play a recording in Eldredge’s possession of DeSalvo’s confession to Mary Sullivan’s murder (or one of the confessions).  Elaine Whitfield Sharp is present but reluctantly agrees to return to the car while the recording is played at the behest of Eldredge and another lawyer.  Despite Eldredge’s certainty of DeSalvos’ guilt and confidence that Sherman will come to the same conclusion upon hearing the recording, Sherman determines the confession is a false one (see below).  Listening to the recording, Sherman also concludes that John Bottomly showed DeSalvo crime scene photographs during (and, likely, before) the confession (which no ethical interrogator would have done).  The Boston City Council passes a resolution calling for a reinvestigation of Mary Sullivan’s murder.  Sherman telephones Andrew Tuney (who left the Strangler Task Force to work for F. Lee Bailey in the 1960s).  Tuney asserts that DeSalvo murdered his aunt but cannot answer when Sherman indicates the discrepancies and inaccuracies in DeSalvo’s confession.  Tuney informs Sherman that George Nassar’s alibi for his aunt’s murder was his job at Filene’s—Mary Sullivan’s place of employment.  Intrigued, Sherman meets Nassar at Walpole.  Nassar denies killing his aunt—or anyone else.  Nassar also says that Tuney was incorrect and that he worked at another department store nearby at the time.  Around this time, Sherman receives a menacing anonymous telephone call warning him that the case is “not ancient history” and to cease his reinvestigation.  He tracks down the son of another “Strangler” victim who says that DeSalvo was guilty and that he is not interested in the reinvestigation.  (Mellon tells Sherman that the son was the prime suspect in his mother’s murder and that he believes he is guilty.)

September 14, 2000: The Sherman and DeSalvo families announce that they have filed a lawsuit against the five law enforcement agencies involved in the case (including Attorney General Thomas Reilly and the Boston Police Department) in order to facilitate the release of evidence collected in the original investigation of Mary Sullivan’s murder.  Elaine and Dan Sharp represent both families.  Their associate, forensic expert James Starrs, will oversee the testing of any evidence that will be released.  (Later, in her 2002 edition of The Boston Stranglers, Susan Kelly reports, “This does not appear likely to happen soon, if ever.  According to Attorney General Reilly, Mary Sullivan’s murder was unsolved—despite Albert DeSalvo’s confession to it—and thus was an open case.”)  Elaine Sharp previously obtained a copy of Mary Sullivan’s autopsy report and passes copies to reporters present.  Sherman plays a copy of Nick Eldredge’s recording.  Elaine Sharp compares DeSalvo’s confession to the autopsy reoprt.  Kelly: “The report stated that no spermatozoa had been found in Mary’s vagina, nor had the hyoid bone in her neck been broken.  If Albert DeSalvo had strangled Mary manually, as he said in January 1965 he had, the hyoid bone would have been fractured.  If he had penetrated her vagina with his penis, that too would have left a trace.”  This press conference is covered nationally by the CBS Evening News.  Later in the day, a representative from the CBS Early Show (hosted by Bryant Gumbel) invites Sherman to appear on her program opposite F. Lee Bailey.

2000: Sherman discusses the discrepancies between DeSalvo’s confession and his aunt’s autopsy report on the CBS Early Show.  He convincingly and effectively debates a misinformed and ignorant Gumbel and a worse Bailey.

October 13, 2000: After a recalcitrant legal establishment fails to provide evidence for testing, Diane Sullivan Dodd reluctantly decides to authorize the exhumation (scheduled for the following day) of her sister’s body.  Starrs arrives at St. Francis Xavier Cemetery on Cape Cod to open the grave and determine the condition of the body.  (Starrs discovers, to his disappointment, that erosion had damaged the casket, effecting its saturation with water.)

October 14, 2000: Mary Sullivan’s remains are exhumed.  Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic specialist, conducts a second autopsy at nearby John Lawrence Funeral Home.

October 15, 2000: Starrs holds a press conference, announcing that a second autopsy has been conducted on the body of Mary Sullivan.  Dan Sharp stresses the crucial need for cooperation from the government.  Mary Sullivan is reinterred later in the afternoon following a funeral ceremony.  The exhumation and re-autopsy are reported around the world (Sherman would receive interview requests from as far away as South Korea).

October 2000: Reilly announces that he had “recently” found semen taken from Mary Sullivan’s crime scene.  Sherman is convinced that Reilly knew about the evidence but waited to acknowledge it until he was certain he could not get the Sullivan and DeSalvo families to call off their investigation.  Had the family known about this evidence, the devoutly Roman Catholic Diane Sullivan Dodd would not have decided to desecrate her sister’s grave.  Sherman calls the attorney general’s office and schedules another meeting.   During the meeting, the Sharps offer to withdraw all pending litigation if the state will allow Starrs to oversee any DNA testing by the State.  Assistant Attorney General Leone declines.

December 14, 2000: U.S. District Court Judge William Young attempts to mediate between the DeSalvo & Sullivan familes and the state, urging an amicable “compromise” between the two in which the state turns over a sample of DNA for independent evaluation.  The attempt at mediation fails.

February 20, 2001: Attorney General Reilly announces that DNA testing in the Mary Sullivan case was “nonproductive.”  (According to Sherman, this announcement will occur the following morning.)

February 21, 2001: Young presides over a hearing regarding the Sullivan family’s request to block further DNA testing by the State.  The Sharps have discovered that Mary Sullivan’s killer ejaculated on her chest (contrary to DeSalvo’s convession) and that the attorney general’s office possesses six semen samples taken from the body.  (A few to several hours earlier, the attorney general reported that DNA testing had been “nonproductive” to this point.  Since DNA is destroyed during testing and can never be used again, the family is trying to stop testing they regard as untrustworthy as well as destructive.  Sherman: “We were not worried that Reilly’s DNA testing would place Albert DeSalvo at the scene of the crime but that the test results would come back conveniently ‘inconclusive.’”)  Young refuses to grant the family’s request but does insist that the state set aside enough DNA for independent tests in the event that the family wins their case.  Young also issues a “gag order” on the lawyers and Starrs, and he schedules a hearing regarding the state’s request to dismiss the family’s lawsuit.

February 27, 2001: Young presides over the next hearing at the Harvard University campus.  Sherman and the Sharps receive copies of Leone’s affidavit and find that it is fundamentally mendacious (claiming that his office, without the exhortations of the family, spearheaded the current investigation).  Leone refuses to grant one of the six semen samples (which was the extent of the family’s request), and Young refuses to dismiss the family’s lawsuit.  (Sherman later commented, “That our lawsuit remained alive came as a pleasant surprise to the Sharps, who had worried about the judge’s reputation as a government ally.”)  Sherman urges Elaine Sharp to consider bringing the falsehoods and distortions in Leone’s affidavit to Young’s attention, but she encourages Sherman to refrain for the time being for stragetic purposes (“… I took Elaine’s advice, though I believed we were missing a great opportunity to show the world how duplicitous the attorney general’s office was.”)  (According to Susan Kelly, these events take place the following day.)

March 30, 2001: In the process of conducting research, an informant of author Susan Kelly notices that several pages of Cambridge Police Department arrest records from November and December 1963 are mysteriously missing.  He also notices a mysterious case from March 1964 described only as “confidential” (Albert DeSalvo neither confessed to nor was charged with any crime that took place that month).  (In the paperback editions of her book, Kelly notes that “confidential” cases usually involve sex crimes.)

2001: At his television station, Sherman takes a call from a New Hampshire resident and co-worker of Robert Jennings Greene.  The caller indicates that Greene has been acting suspiciously and has made incriminating statements.  Over the course of several weeks, this informant reports that Greene’s behavior becomes increasingly suspicious as news reports of the reinvestigation intensify.  (When this informant asked Greene if he had killed Mary Sullivan, Greene did not say no.)  Sherman asks the informant to surreptitiously obtain a sample of Greene’s DNA; the informant reluctantly agrees.  The informant sends a beer glass to Sherman, who sends it to Starrs.  Starrs reluctantly informs Sherman that the glass is too contaminated (and has too many different samples of DNA) to be tested.  Sherman talks to a cousin of “Strangler” victim Sophie Clark who gives him moral support but declines to get involved publicly because he is a police officer who does not wish to antagonize his “brother cops.”  Sherman also tracks down John Bottomly’s daughter Holly, who is about to sell her father’s private information on the case (after she declines to provide them for free) before an unidentified friend of her late father sternly rebukes her for cooperating with Sherman.

July 2001: Attorney General Reilly publicly castigates Richard DeSalvo for refusing to provide DNA for testing purposes.  Sherman: “What Reilly didn’t tell the media is that Richard had offered his blood to the state many times over the preceding two years on the condition that independent scientists test the evidence.  Richard did not trust the government, and after reading Gerry Leone’s affidavit, I could hardly blame him.”

July 18, 2001: At a staged media event, Richard DeSalvo offers blood and saliva for testing purposes, affirming his commitment to facilitate competent, objective, impartial, honest testing in the case.  Elaine Sharp apparently conceived the idea as a gambit in their ongoing battle with the state, but the families, who reluctantly agree to go along with it, dislike this turn of events and the direction of the media coverage.  Despite DeSalvo’s donation, Reilly still refuses to share evidence.

October 26, 2001: Albert DeSalvo’s remains are exhumed at Puritan Lawn Cemetery in Peabody, MA and transported to a laboratory at York College of Pennsylvania located (oddly enough) in York, PA.

October 27, 2001: Starrs and his team conduct the second autopsy of Albert DeSalvo.  Starrs and his team discover that DeSalvo’s vital organs, which should have been preserved after his original 1973 autopsy and reinterred with the rest of his remains, are missing.

October 29, 2001: The remains of Albert DeSalvo are reinterred at Puritan Lawn Cemetery in Peabody, MA.

November 21, 2001: The State of Florida disbars F. Lee Bailey due to “egregious misconduct” including “commingling of client funds.”

December 3, 2001: A petition for reciprocal discipline regarding F. Lee Bailey is filed in the Superior Court of Massachusetts for Suffolk County.  One justice on the court determines that Bailey should be disbarred in Massachusetts.

December 6, 2001: At a press conference at the National Press Club in the District of Columbia, James Starrs and his colleagues announce the results of the second autopsies of Mary Sullivan and Albert DeSalvo as well as subsequent DNA testing and comparisons.  After Dr. Michael Baden recounts familiar and unfamiliar discrepancies and contradictions in DeSalvo’s confession to Mary Sullivan’s murder, George Washington University Professor (and DNA expert) David Foran announces that DNA from a brittle, semen-like substance found on Mary Sullivan’s body does not match the DNA of either Mary Sullivan or Albert DeSalvo.

December 7, 2001: Headline on the 369-foot Times Square ticker in Manhattan: ALBERT DESALVO NOT THE BOSTON STRANGLER.

December 18, 2001: Daniel and Elaine Sharp send Attorney General Reilly a letter outlining the complaints in their ongoing (as of 2012) lawsuit on behalf of Richard DeSalvo to locate his brother’s missing internal organs and the missing autobiographical manuscript his brother claimed he was writing that disappeared from his prison cell upon his death.

December 24, 2001: Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Guy Volterra dismisses the Sherman and DeSalvo families’ lawsuit against Massachusetts law enforcement authorities.

Circa 2002: Sherman’s New Hampshire informant succeeds in acquiring strands of Robert Jennings Greene’s hair.  The mitochondrial DNA is tested and is found to match DNA from the crime scene (which means that Greene cannot be eliminated from a percentage of the population that could have contributed the DNA).  Sherman, with the help of a private investigator, tracks down Pamela Parker.  His aunt’s quondam roommate tells him that she always believed her fellow roommate’s fiancé murdered Mary Sullivan and offers encouragement and further detailed recollections that incriminate the prime suspect.  

March 18, 2002: The United States Supreme Court suspends F. Lee Bailey from practicing law.

June 2002: The United States Supreme Court disbars F. Lee Bailey.

September 2002: Greene is a golf instructor at a country club in New Hampshire.  Sherman schedules a lesson with him under a pseudonym.  He confronts Greene and identifies himself.  A fearful and evasive Greene stutters (like the suspicious and threatening caller to Parker in 1964), acts defensive, and offers conflicting alibis and accounts of his whereabouts on the first weekend of 1964 that shift and contradict each other immediately.  (At one point, Greene claims that he watched football on television with his grandfather “all day” on January 4, 1964.  With the help of his television colleagues, Sherman later confirms that there were no college or professional games broadcast on January 4, 1964.)  Sherman calls Greene an evil man and tells him he knows Greene killed Mary Sullivan.  When Greene offers his hand, Sherman slaps it away and leaves. 

April 11, 2003: The Superior Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirms the court’s December 3, 2001 judgment regarding F. Lee Bailey.

September 23, 2004: Ames Robey, MD, former Bridgewater State Hospital medical director and director of the Center for Forensic Psychiatry for the State of Michigan, dies.  To his dying day, he maintains that his most famous patient never committed murder.

November 5, 2005: The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denies F. Lee Bailey’s request for an evidentiary hearing on the matter of his disbarment.  The court disbars him.

June 9, 2006: The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirms the November 5, 2005 judgment of the United States District Court.  (Bailey currently runs a consulting firm.)

December 9, 2009: Jon Asgeirsson, one of Albert DeSalvo’s first attorneys, dies.  (Attorney Thomas Troy had died years earlier.)

January 2010: Scandals in Massachusetts state crime laboratories (including criminal charges against at least one chemist) make national headlines(In these cases, the scandal is apparently limited to testing related to charges involved with the War on some Drugs and not for any actual crimes against person or property such as those committed against Mary Sullivan.)  Attorney General Martha Coakley argues that requiring crime lab technicians to appear in court to face defense attorney questioning is too large of a burden for the prosecution.

February 6, 2010: The Honorable Francis C. Newton, Junior, Albert DeSalvo’s last attorney, dies.  The retired judge also maintained to his dying day that his most famous client was not guilty of any murder.

February 13, 2010: Daniel Sharp dies.

June 14, 2012: On the fiftieth anniversary of the first murder attributed to the “Boston Strangler,” the Boston Globe quotes former Massachusetts and United States Attorney General (and United States Senator) Edward Brooke saying that he is not certain who “the Boston Strangler” was.

July 11, 2013: Three months prior to the publication of an updated paperback edition of Susan Kelly’s The Boston Stranglers, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley holds a press conference announcing that recent DNA testing (which previously recalcitrant Massachusetts authorities had apparently finally agreed to test) indicated that Albert DeSalvo was present at 44A Charles Street (the scene of Mary Sullivan’s murder).  Conley claims that DNA was obtained from DeSalvo’s nephew without his knowledge that was subsequently compared to an allegedly semen-stained blanket upon which Sullivan’s body lay.  (According to the results of 1964 forensic tests, the stains on this blanket contained no spermatozoa.  If accurate, the virile DeSalvo could not have produced them.)  Despite their past asseverations that DNA in this case was not suitable for testing, authorities had apparently changed their minds.  Despite the fact that the knife used to murder Albert DeSalvo remained in the state’s custody (and despite the fact that Richard DeSalvo repeatedly offered to provide his own DNA), the state surreptitiously acquired DNA from Richard’s son.

July 12, 2013: Albert DeSalvo’s remains are exhumed again (under the auspices of Massachusetts authorities, this time).

July 19, 2013: Conley, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and controversial (some say disgraced) Massachusetts Attorney General and failed Democratic Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Martha Coakley  release a joint statement asserting that Albert DeSalvo’s DNA, beyond any reasonable doubt, was present at the Mary Sullivan crime scene.  The statement averred that no usable DNA exists from any of the other crime scenes attributed to the "Boston Strangler" so no further tests can take place.  The statement does assert that DeSalvo "probably" committed the other ten to twelve murders attributed to "the Boston Strangler" (despite the fact that very few Massachusetts authorities previously believed that one murderer was responsible for all of them and despite the fact that compelling suspects--and at least one plausible confession--exist).  The statement does not mention the results of the 1964 forensic tests, conveniently avoiding the obligation to explain how a virile man who fathered at least two children could ejaculate semen without spermatozoa.  The statement does not mention if testing was considered on the more reasonable and logical long-time prime suspect in the case.  The overwhelming vast majority (if not all) of the consummate media professionals who instantly report the story fail to mention any of the case’s longtime and public controversies or any of the problems with the recent (purported) reinvestigation, Massachusetts crime laboratories, and Martha Coakley.

To be analyzed and integrated (and, if you will forgive the pun, autopsied) soon ...