23 April 2008

Review of Noodler's Baystate Blue Ink

(Click on the image to see the review in full size.)

-P. I. Lumen

10 April 2008

Crime and Punishment: The Great Gatsby versus The Scarlet Letter

The legal systems of modern America have achieved similar goals through different governments. Early American colonies, such as the one that formed the setting of The Scarlet Letter, were often based on theocratic governments.  As history progressed the time period that formed the setting of The Great Gatsby, the Constitution became the "supreme law of the land." These two legal systems recognized different crimes, but the basic concept of punishment was the same, being that guilty people can achieve absolution through punishment. With regard to both character's respective moral and legal settings, Hester Prynne consciously committed a crime that deserved significant punishment, while Daisy Buchanan did not intentionally commit a crime and therefore deserves little punishment.

            Hester Prynne took initiative in her actions in a way that punishment could properly correct. Hester consciously committed a crime for which she knew the punishment. Hester cheated on her husband, for which there was irrefutable evidence of a baby. The crime of adultery was punishable by being stoned to death, and Hester was completely aware of this punishment while committing her crime. Regardless of modern views of Hester's actions, Hester chose to live in the theocratic society of Boston and therefore was aware of the legal boundaries and the subsequent penalties for violating them. Because she consciously committed her crime, the most appropriate punishment for Hester would be one that changes the mind, and Hester's scarlet letter clearly modified her behavior for her edification. The novel clearly demonstrates that Hester's mindset was modified by her punishment to create respect for the law, proving that her seemingly harsh punishment was completely appropriate and applicable for the crime. For her actions, Hester Prynne received an appropriately harsh punishment.

            Daisy Buchanan's crimes could have been explained as an accident for which Daisy was not at fault, absolving her of any punishment. Daisy's crime of hit-and-run manslaughter may have been committed unintentionally. Because of the "innocent until proven guilty" law system in place at the time of Daisy's crime, a judge would have needed irrefutable evidence that Daisy was guilty in order to convict her of crimes and sentence her to punishment. Because logical explanations in Daisy's defense exist for all of her actions, the legal system at the time would not have sufficient evidence to charge Daisy of severe crimes, but some minor penalties would still remain. In chapter seven, the novel stated that Daisy attempted to avoid hitting Myrtle Wilson, but was forced back into her lane by oncoming traffic. Daisy's initial reaction to an obstruction in the road was to avoid it, which clearly would have shown a judge that she did not intend to hit Myrtle Wilson. Upon hitting Myrtle, it is completely plausible that Daisy could have gone into shock, which would have been a real medical condition that would have affected Daisy's ability to respond to her accident. Gatsby took control of the vehicle and situation after striking Myrtle, so was consequently Gatsby who would have ultimately decided to flee the scene of the crime, not Daisy. After recovering from her shock, it is also plausible that, as a woman in society, Daisy would not have had the authority to question Gatsby's decision to flee the scene. When looking at the overall picture of the crime, there is sufficient evidence that Daisy may not have inescapably guilty of many her alleged crimes, thereby showing that she wouldn't have deserved punishment. Though Daisy would have killed Myrtle Wilson, she did not intend for the crime to occur, and would therefore not benefit from a harsh punishment such as a prison sentence. Because there is no proof that Daisy attempted to hit Myrtle or that Daisy intended to flee the scene of the crime, behavior-correcting punishment would not have been effective for her actions, meaning that little or no punishment was due.

            When comparing the crimes of Hester Prynne and Daisy Buchanan, it is clear that Hester intentionally broke the law, while Daisy did not intentionally commit any crime; therefore Hester deserves significantly more punishment than Daisy. All people are fallible, and not all crimes warrant significant punishment. Those who unintentionally break the law, such as Daisy, would not be improved morally by punishment. Those who intentionally break the law, such as Hester, are prime candidates for punishment because their behavior could be refined. When assessing an appropriate punishment, guilt should not be a factor so much as what the punishment could accomplish. 

03 April 2008

A Response to: "Lawyers Fight DNA Samples Gained on Sly"

The article at hand discusses the legality of obtaining DNA of crime suspects via what they leave behind in public, such as cigarette butts or drink bottles. View the original article by clicking the title of this entry.
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What is the purpose of a court trial? The purpose is to find out whether or not someone is guilty of committing a crime, and to subsequently condemn the guilty. The article at hand discusses a method for obtaining possible evidence against a person via their DNA. When two DNA samples match, that match holds a remarkable amount of accuracy when used as evidence in a court trial. Identifying people based on DNA analysis makes fingerprint analysis-based testimonies look like bombast  (for more detail on this, see http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/3010536.html). With DNA's high level of accuracy, a DNA match in a crime is essentially treated as adamant proof of guilt, provided that there is no other explanation for the DNA's presence at the crime scene. 
The fourth amendment, regarding unwarranted searches and seizures, was created to stopthe  abuse of people in regards to their property or their privacy by the government. Obtaining DNA is a one-time action that is simple and objective, and can clearly exonerate  or condemn a person. This essentially makes DNA the "Holy Grail" in many court cases, leading to a simple guilty or not guilty ruling. 

Why not use DNA evidence at all possible times, then? DNA evidence is being fought because our judicial system is not based solely on the premise of guilty or not guilty. Rather than objectively analyzing the evidence and determining a person's guilt, modern courts involve grandiloquent lawyers lecturing juries about subjective evidence. People with better lawyers generally have a better chance of winning trials. This is not fair and equal, and makes the court more of a broadway performance than a judgement of guilt. If the police have the power to obtain DNA evidence in an unhindered manner, the court becomes a more objective arena, and the guilty can no longer swindle their innocence.

If DNA evidence from suspects can freely be obtained, then the guilty can provide nothing to defend themselves against their inevitable sentencing. Because of this, police should be allowed to freely obtain DNA evidence. DNA is objective, and is used to identify whether a suspect is guilty or not. The innocent should have nothing to hide, and the guilty should face their fate. 

02 April 2008

Tesla- The Unknown Man Who Began the Modernization of America

Nikola Tesla invented many things essential to day-to-day modern living, including AC electricity, the fluorescent light bulb, the odometer, the hydroelectric generator and the radio. Unfortunately, the only modern ties of these inventions to Tesla are in the Patent Office because Tesla never viewed his inventions as profitable. Tesla was a revolutionary thinker, but he was unsociable and lacked the ability to complete or make profit off of most of his inventions.

Nikola Tesla grew up in a household defined by the death of Tesla's brother. In his autobiography, Tesla wrote, "In the first place I had a brother who was gifted to an extraordinary degree'…'His premature death left my parents disconsolate." (Tesla 28). Upon this tragic death, Tesla became socially withdrawn, as he would remain the rest of his life. Tesla then had no one to feel inferior toward in his family, and even a feeling that he must help his parents by compensating for the lost talent in his family. "Anything I did that was creditable merely caused my parents to feel their loss more keenly. So I grew up with little confidence in myself." (Tesla 28). At that age Tesla learned to expect no gratification or rewards for his work, which became a major problem for him when he began to enter the business world. This also taught Tesla to be independent of bosses, encouraging him to be self-sustaining. This was the beginning of a life of isolation and mental instability for Nikola Tesla.

Though Tesla did not have the backing of his parents for a career in engineering, Tesla obviously had the skills to make him an impeccable inventor. "I longed to be an engineer but my father was unflexible." (Tesla 29). Tesla not only could not make his parents proud, but they openly disapproved of his plans in life, encouraging Tesla to continue his isolation both socially and emotionally. It is curious to point out that if Tesla had listened to his father the world would be drastically different today.  Tesla also wrote, "In my boyhood I suffered from a peculiar affliction due to the appearance of objects…" (Tesla 31). "Then I observed to my delight that I could visualize with the greatest facility." (Tesla 33). Being able to control these visions meant that Tesla had gained the ability to construct plans for inventions in his mind without the need to record them until a patent was needed. This ability left no need for Tesla to work on his ideas with other engineers, even making sharing his ideas with others a nuisance. Tesla had the determination to become an inventor and the skills needed to make him thrive.           

Nikola Tesla became famous in the media during his "Battle of the Currents" with Thomas Edison, but he was very socially withdrawn in his private life. "Tesla was a great showman and a favorite of newspaper reporters who sought sensational copy" (Carlson 80). Tesla could entertain a crowd of reporters, but he never socialized privately with anyone outside of work. Tesla was forced to grow up with a fa├žade of happiness due to his parents' troubles, which he then used in the media to display confidence while speaking, even though he was often in financial trouble. "I counted the steps in my walks and calculated the cubical contents of my soup plates, coffee cups, and pieces of food- otherwise my meal was unenjoyable." (Tesla 37). Though whether Tesla had obsessive compulsive disorder was not recorded, the afflictions he had kept him away from other people. Tesla was a savant with amazing mind power, resulting in him viewing the world around him uniquely. It is curious that Tesla could conquer the visions he experienced as a child and overcame many addictions to drugs, but he was never able to overcome seemingly simple afflictions like doing actions in triplets.

Nikola Tesla was extremely smart, but he did not stand up for himself and he was a poor business man. "The manager [of the Edison Electric Light Company] had promised me fifty thousand dollars on the completion of this task but it turned out to be a practical joke. This gave me a painful shock and I resigned my position!" (Tesla 72). This was one of Tesla's first experiences in the business world, and Tesla's overwhelming trust and lack of assertiveness made him easy prey for businessman. This event demolished Tesla's trust in others, so he then began to work alone as an independent business. "Tesla had a profound idealism that only occasionally reached practical reality." (Carlson 80). Tesla had many incomplete ideas, some of which were considered neurotic exclamations to get media attention, but some of Tesla's ideas are being validated by scientists today. That may mean that, given more time and money, Tesla may have been able to prove these ideas that existed only in his head. Tesla's major flaw was that he would only prove the concept, he would never perfect a design or make money off of it, leaving Tesla to die with empty pockets and others obtaining fame from Tesla's work.

"Otis Pond, an engineer then working for Tesla, said, 'Looks as if Marconi got the jump on you.' Tesla replied, 'Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents.' " (PBS)

This quote is indicative of Tesla's mindset as an inventor, not a businessman. Tesla left his inventions to others, and, though he hinted at having invented the technology before Marconi, Tesla never did anything about the patent infringement. Most people today know nothing of Tesla because he created ideas and left the work of creating revolutionary products to others. Unfortunately, Marconi made millions of dollars off of Tesla's invention until Marconi lost his patent on the radio in the 1943 Supreme Court Case Marconi Wireless T. Company vs. the United States months after Tesla's death. Marconi began the lawsuit by suing the government for infringing on his patents; Tesla was uninvolved. If Tesla had focused on quality rather than quantity, he may have been remembered today as a wealthy man who modernized America, rather than the unknown man whose ideas began the modernization of America.


Works Cited

Carlson, W. Bernard. "Inventor of Dreams." Scientific American Mar. 2005: 79-85.

Tesla, Nikola. My Inventions. 1919. Ed. Ben Johnston. Austin: Hart Brothers, 1982. 28, 29, 31, 36, 72.

"Who Invented Radio?" PBS. 19 Oct. 2006 <http://www.pbs.org/tesla/ll/ll_whoradio.html>.