[Fox has legally established the right to present lies as news and therefore one of the unintended consequences of that judicial ruling is that individual consumers of political punditry (such as this column) are solely responsible for any concomitant fact checking deemed appropriate.]
“Cemetery John,” written by Robert Zorn (The Overlook Press, New York N.Y. ©2012) slowly and methodically dismantles the case against Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was tried and executed for participating in the theft of some children’s clothes from the home of Col. Charles A. Lindbergh. Any reader of this column who assumes that Hauptmann was fried in New Jersey’s electrical chair because he was found guilty of the murder of the kidnapped baby has probably relied on other less comprehensive reports about the notorious crime. In “Don’t Know Much about History,” author Kenneth C. Davis blithely informs his readers “ . . . but the evidence in the case was always strong against him (Hauptmann).” (“What we have here is . . . failure to communicate!”)
Zorn’s book not only contradicts the conventional wisdom about Richard Bruno Hauptmann, he names a specific person as the mastermind of the famous heinous crime and builds an extensive case to bolster his assertion.
According to Zorn, academics have formulated a computer program that achieves a much higher accuracy rating for handwriting analysis than the human experts have scored in the past. This innovative example of computer superiority confirms that his suspect actually wrote (at last parts of) the ransom notes delivered to Col. Lindbergh.
Dr. John F. Condon, whose initials JFC were used to derive his handle as Jafsie, served as the go-between for negotiations with a suspect (or suspects?) demanding money from the Lindberghs for the safe return of the baby.
Dr. Condon spoke directly to a suspect and later was reluctant to swear that Hauptmann was the person with whom he spoke. Initial descriptions of the suspect given to police after his first encounter with an alleged kidnapper contradict the physical appearance of the man who was executed in the electric chair for being the one and only perpetrator of the vile deed. Dr. Condon, AKA Jafsie, was, according to Zorn, coerced into upgrading his level of certainty and eliminating all his previously expressed doubts about Hauptmann being the man to whom Dr. Condon, at a second meeting, handed the ransom money.
Zorn raises a question about the possibility that the “Trial of the Century” actually took place in a location that did not legally have jurisdiction over the matter.
The conviction and execution of Hauptmann provided a foundation for a wide variety of careers for lawyers, politicians and police officials. In the Thirties, any assertions about gaps in logic concerning the case quickly earned the sensational publicity seeking source a major amount of ridicule and (subsequently) a chance for inclusion in the Conspiracy Theory Hall of Fame.
Zorn alleges that some of the seats in the court room were sold by a local police official. Coverage of the sensational trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann provided a springboard to fame for some of the journalists who reported on the proceedings. Columnist Walter Winchell was one of those lucky individuals.
The antediluvian (has using big words gone out of fashion?) columnists’ technique, called three dot journalism, of using an ellipse to separate unrelated items has been superseded by the trend to streamline the demands on a reader’s attention span by adhering to the policy of one topic per column, but in the era of channel surfing via the remote control, perhaps the eclipse of the ellipse style will end?
Could separate and distinct topics, such as gun control, filibustering and storm damage legislation, which were separated by the use of three dot journalism, actually have a narrative thread which connects them all together?
With the new rules for filibustering, could a Senator introduce a ban on assault rifles with a dramatic public announcement which delights advocates of gun control and then later use the recently amended filibuster rules to anonymously kill the possibility of having a vote on that item and thus win the continuing supply of campaign donations from various gun supporting groups? Aren’t all things possible through prayer?
Voters in California, who are “news junkies,” may have heard some (one or two?) disturbing rumors, last week, that both of their Democratic Senators allegedly gave stealth support to the piss poor filibuster reform measure that was approved by the Senate. According to one radio report, a Senator who disapproved of the anemic reform actually told reporters the names of Quisling Democratic Senators who had quietly betrayed their constituents but he was quickly silenced (by senior Democratic Party officials?).
As the World’s Laziest Journalist understands it, the new filibuster rules present very ominous possibilities that only a vigilant free press can prevent. At the end of December, the Congressional vote on Sandy Storm relief was postponed until after the New Year’s holiday. The first day of the New Year, it was given immediate Congressional approval amid much loud hosannas in the news media. Most folks didn’t notice the small footnote attached to the story: Since a new congress was being sworn in, the approval of the measure by Congress meant that to be enacted into law it had to re-win approval in the Senate.
Those good ole boys in the Senate were, as the new session got started, mighty busy with filibuster reform, gun control, the annual State of the Union name calling competition, and (tah dah dah dutt dutt daaaahhh!) immigration reform and so it is possible that in all that excitement they have forgotten how many bills, such as the Storm relief bill, needed to be passed. Now, they have to ask themselves another question: “How many of the voters will notice/care?” To which we can only add the traditional San Francisco question: “Well, do ya, punk?”
In a country that is known for its dedication to a free press and truth, fretting about this slight oversight going unnoticed is probably a fool’s errand. Since the World’s Laziest Journalist’s headquarters operates with limited access to commentary in the free press (the access costs money) we might have missed ample examples of instances where this possible sin of omission has been mentioned. If it has not, then just as soon as the posse known as the New York Times national desk reads this column, they will (we must assume) pen a lead editorial calling the Senate to task for the glaring political fumble.
In all the excitement over the Judicial ruling that President Obama exceeded his authority with some recess appointments, the Journalists commenting on the sensational development seem to have missed a partisan implication question. Will the Republicans use that decision as the grounds for starting impeachment proceedings against the President they love to hate?
Speaking of gun control, Zorn reports that Col Lindbergh was armed when he accompanied Dr. Condon when the doctor went to pay the ransom money and that the famous flyer noticed a fellow (who most likely knew that the Lindbergh baby was dead and that the ransom transaction was a fraud) walking away from the rendezvous location. If (subjunctive mood) Col. Lindbergh had shot that person in the back, would he have been exonerated for an act of vigilante justice or would he have been convicted of murder by a jury of gun control advocates? Just asking.
It will soon be the fiftieth anniversary of the time when Lee Harvey Oswald said to journalists: “I’m a patsy.”
Now the disk jockey will play Johnny Cash’s “The Long Black Veil,” Merle Haggard’s “I’m the only Hell my mama ever raised,” and the Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley.” We have to go buy a “Go Niners!” T-shirt. Have a Lombardi Trophy winning type week.