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Talking a Wilde Leap Off Your Own Pedestal

When you are at the height of your career, try not to stumble over your own feet because it can be a very quick "trip" to the bottom. Oscar Wilde has reached his pinnacle. He is the author of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" which almost got him arrested on morals charges. Yet, he remains the favorite of the "Bohemia in tiaras" crowd. His play, "The Importance of Being Earnest," premieres in London this year. It is a satire on the trivial restrictions of Victorian society like fidelity, honesty, the pursuit of love and marriage. The Marquis of Queensberry is sick of Oscar, so he leaves a note, labeling him a "posing somdomite'. (Apparently, the Marquis can't spell, but you get the idea.) Since sodomy is a crime in England, Wilde has the Marquis arrested for libel. This is a mistake because even in London, the truth is a very powerful defense. As the trial unfolds, Oscar Wilde's sexual antics are revealed. In Victorian society, people will look the other way as long as one doesn't make a spectacle out of ones self, but Oscar is making a spectacle. Wilde is arrested for "gross indecency". Bail is posted by Reverend Stewart Headlam on principle. (Good man.) Wilde will be found guilty and sentenced to two years hard labor. ("Hard labor" in Victorian times is VERY hard.) After his release he will leave for France, never to return. His health and his finances will dwindle away. He is done. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Regarding self-destructive decisions, I was in my 20s when I met Charlie. When he spoke he was amazing, but my friend, Duffy, didn't like Charlie's talk of personal renewal and the power of God. I admired Duffy, but I decided to call Charlie and ask a few questions... big questions... like, "Why did God make me this way?" and "Why would He want to help ME?" I didn't expect big answers, but Charlie had no answers at all. I hung up. Maybe Charlie was having a bad day. Indeed, he was. Two days later, Charlie pushed a .38 into his mouth, and blew the back of his head off. Obviously, he had identified the problem because he didn't shoot himself in the heart. I think we had pushed him too high up on that pedestal, and he wanted to get down in the worst way, so he found the worst way. Now, whenever people are tempted to heap more praise on me than I deserve, I step down a little. I'll take the applause for what I deserve, but no more than that. The other lesson I learned was never to let other people fix me. I had tried to put my life in Charlie's hands when he could barely hang on to his own. Now, I will pray for guidance, consult doctors and read helpful books, but all decisions remain in my hands no matter how many therapists I hire. (It took around 6 or 7 as I recall.) I needed help, yet if I could go back in time, and tell my younger self the name of that LAST therapist, it would have done me no good. It took all those other experts, and even Charlie before I could understand. It has been well over 30 years since Charlie took his own life, yet I still think of him, and I tell Charlie's story every couple of months. Charlie paid in cash for this lesson. Now I have passed it on to you. Make it count.

A Compromise on Civil Rights

Booker T. Washington is the founder of Tuskegee Institute, a teacher's college in Alabama. (It is more like a vocational school for Black people at this point, but it will eventually grow into a university.) Booker T. knows fundraising and he knows politics. He is the master of the possible. That is why he has announced a compromise between white and black people of the South. At the first, many freed slaves sought positions of leadership, starting at the top, so to speak, but with the return of sovereignty to the Southern states, the white legislatures have been passing laws to crush the political power of black people. Aside from the ugly aspects of racism, stifling the efforts of one third of the South's population is ultimately self-defeating for the South. Since Booker T. realizes that he cannot stop the destructive legislation coming down the pipeline, he proposes a compromise. Black people will stop their call for political equality, and concentrate on education... starting at the bottom and working their way up, so to speak. What is needed are teachers, nurses, and skilled laborers. He is working on what can be done right now. At first many black leaders support his compromise, but as it becomes clear that no compromise is possible. Black leaders will form a new political organization, the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1909.

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Booker T. Washington's book, "Up from Slavery," provides some context to the times. He was intelligent, motivated and reasonably polite. What Booker T. lacked was an education. He pushed hard to get it, not by making demands, but by finding educators and demonstrating to them that he was willing to work hard. No free lunches. Once he had a baseline education, he passed it on to his fellows. At the Tuskegee Institute, they learned how to discipline themselves, to show up on time, to speak correctly and dress appropriately. Why? Because no one had bothered to teach them these basic skills before. With so much to learn, Booker T. Washington's compromise makes more sense. But as racial tensions rose, and general violence against Blacks increased, building a political organization to fight for civil rights was inevitable. When looking back we often compress time, not realizing that the passage of 10 or 15 years makes a difference. Also the goals of an organization will change over time. For example, the March of Dimes was created to fight polio in children. Now that polio has been effectively eliminated as an immediate concern, what is the March of Dimes doing now? Something else... naturally. [8] [9] [10]

Limits on the Right to Strike

Eugene V. Debs is president of the American Railway Union. He and others have joined with the factory workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company in a general strike. The purpose is to shut down all railroad traffic in and out of Chicago, but in doing so, interstate commerce and US mail delivery have been interrupted and by every indication they will continue to be interrupted. The railroads are a common carrier, and they have contracts with the US government to carry the US mail and transport troops. Thus, the Federal government has a duty to keep the railroads running. But the union strike has gone beyond a mere work-stoppage or boycott of certain services. Engines have been derailed, traffic signals have been disabled and signalmen assaulted. The American Railway Union has defied a court order to cease and desist the blocking of the railroads. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court blesses the power of the Federal government to enforce the Interstate Commerce Act, and to remove all obstructions to interstate commerce. It can also use its constitutional powers to keep the US mails operating. In other words, Eugene V. Debs and the others named in the court order are going to jail. Unions have only a limited ability to strike when employed by a common carrier such as an interstate railroad company. [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
In 1981 the air traffic controllers union, going by the acronym PATCO, went on strike when contract negotiations with the US government broke down. This was during the Reagan Administration. During his campaign, Ronald Reagan made it clear that he supported the unions and specifically the air traffic controllers. (Reagan had been president of the Screen Actors Guild which is a union.) PATCO endorsed the Republicans. However, when the strike went on too long, President Reagan ordered the PATCO union members back to work... or PATCO would get decertified and everyone would be fired. It was a standoff. PATCO didn't believe the President had the intestinal fortitude to fire them all. But he sure did...all 11,000 of them, and they stayed fired until President Bill Clinton lifted the ban on hiring back the old controllers. Of course, if they had waited that long to be rehired, they were probably not worth it. My sense is that the air traffic controllers had a legitimate beef concerning working hours and poor equipment, but that they overdid it with the strike. Unions are in a weak position with the common carriers and I can't image how they could fix that. [12] [13] [14]

Notable Births

  • Gracie Allen (Comedian and wife of George Burns. "Say goodnight, Gracie.") [15]
  • J. Edgar Hoover (Director of the FBI until 1972. He will scare the living snot out of politicians including Presidents because of his secret files.) [16]
  • Buckminster Fuller (He will coin "Spaceship Earth" and patent the geodesic dome. The geodesic carbon structure C60 will be called a "Bucky Ball" in his honor.) [17] [18]

In Other News

  • X-Rays are discovered. Wilhelm Röntgen (RONT-gen) will win the Nobel prize for this discovery. [19]
  • The space elevator is first conceived. The Russian pioneer of rocket science, Tsiolkovsky (sol-KOFF-ski), suggests that a tower into space might be constructed. [20]
  • Volleyball is invented at the YMCA because basketball is just too violent. [21]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1895, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Oscar Wilde - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 23 August 2015. “On 18 February 1895, the Marquess left his calling card at Wilde's club, the Albemarle, inscribed: 'For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite' [sic]. Wilde, encouraged by Douglas and against the advice of his friends, initiated a private prosecution against Queensberry for libel, since the note amounted to a public accusation that Wilde had committed the crime of sodomy.”
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray. gutenberg.org (1890). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
  3. Classics corner: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. TheGuardian.com (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “Wilde's only published novel has gathered a mighty reputation since it was published in 1890, its fame resting largely on the clever conceit of the plot. The exquisitely handsome Gray prays for eternal good looks as his portrait is being painted. Thus his picture ages and withers while he remains an Adonis 'made out of ivory and rose leaves' despite the corrupt and dissolute life that he starts to lead.”
  4. The treadmill, and other Victorian delights. jsplawyers.com (2009). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “This was not really enough for some of the prison administrators and hard labour was introduced. This could at least have been argued to have a useful purpose in the cases, particularly, of the excavations for Chatham Dock and the sewing of mailbags but a lot of good honest tradesman were not very happy at the prospect of having to compete with unpaid prisoners so giving them other useful work proved problematical and in any case it was argued that the work should be a punishment rather than a means of giving the prisoners any productive trade. It became common for men to be marched off to carry out manual work at a dock only to simply move heavy baulks of timber from one place to another and then back again but unfortunately not every prison was close to a dock so other means had to be found of keeping the inmates busy; which is where the treadmill came in!”
  5. Wilde Libel Transcript: Sentencing Statement of Justice Wills. law2.umkc.edu (2014). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “Justice Wills: Oscar Wilde and Alfred Taylor, the crime of which you have been convicted is so bad that one has to put stern restraint upon one's self to prevent one's self from describing, in language which I would rather not use, the sentiments which must rise in the breast of every man of honor who has heard the details of these two horrible trials. That the jury has arrived at a correct verdict in this case I cannot persuade myself to entertain a shadow of a doubt; and I hope, at all events, that those who sometimes imagine that a judge is half-hearted in the cause of decency and morality because he takes care no prejudice shall enter into the case, may see that it is consistent at least with the utmost sense of indignation at the horrible charges brought home to both of you. It is no use for me to address you. People who can do these things must be dead to all sense of shame, and one cannot hope to produce any effect upon them. It is the worst case I have ever tried. that you, Taylor, kept a kind of male brothel it is impossible to doubt. And that you, Wilde, have been the center of a circle of extensive corruption of the most hideous kind among young men, it is equally impossible to doubt. I shall, under the circumstances, be expected to pass the severest sentence that the law allows. In my judgment it it totally inadequate for a case such as this. The sentence of the Court is that each of you be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for two years. [Cries of 'Oh! Oh!' and 'Shame!'] Wilde--And I? May I say nothing, my Lord? The court adjourned.”
  6. Offences against the Person Act 1861 - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “Section 61 – Buggery This section abolished the death penalty for buggery, and provided instead that a person convicted of buggery was liable to be kept in penal servitude for life or for any term not less than ten years. The sentence authorised by this section was modified by section 1 of the Penal Servitude Act 1891 and section 1 of the Criminal Justice Act 1948.”
  7. Barbara Wertheim Tuchman. Proud Tower, The. Bantam Books. ISBN 9780553256024. “The year 1895 was prolific of shocks, and one that shook Society unpleasantly occurred two months before the Conservatives took office. The trial and conviction of Oscar Wilde under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, for acts of gross indecency between males, destroyed both a brilliant man of letters and the mood of decadence he symbolized.” 
  8. Amazon.com: Up from Slavery: an autobiography eBook: Booker T. Washington: Kindle Store. amazon.com (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.”
  9. March of Dimes - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “The March of Dimes Foundation is a United States nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies. It was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, to combat polio. It has since taken up promoting general health for pregnant women and babies.”
  10. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)[a] is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 by Moorfield Storey, Mary White Ovington and W. E. B. Du Bois.[3] Its mission is 'to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination'. The group enlarged its mission in the late 20th century by considering issues such as police misconduct, the status of black foreign refugees, and questions of economic development.[4] Its name, retained in accordance with tradition, uses the once common term colored people.”
  11. In re Debs (full text) :: 158 U.S. 564 (1885) :: Justia U.S. Supreme Court Center. supreme.justia.com (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “Summing up our conclusions, we hold that the government of the United States is one having jurisdiction over every foot of soil within its territory, and acting directly upon each citizen; that, while it is a government of enumerated powers, it has within the limits of those powers all the attributes of sovereignty; that to it is committed power over interstate commerce and the transmission of the mail; that the powers thus conferred upon the national government are not dormant, but have been assumed and put into practical exercise by the legislation of Congress; that, in the exercise of those powers, it is competent for the nation to remove all obstructions upon highways, natural or artificial, to the passage of interstate commerce or the carrying of the mail;”
  12. Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “The Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 29 U.S.C. § 401-531 better known as the Taft–Hartley Act, (80 H.R. 3020, Pub.L. 80–101, 61 Stat. 136, enacted June 23, 1947) is a United States federal law that restricts the activities and power of labor unions. The act, still effective, was sponsored by Senator Robert A. Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr., and became law by overcoming U.S. President Harry S. Truman's veto on June 23, 1947;[1] labor leaders called it the 'slave-labor bill'[2] while President Truman argued that it was a 'dangerous intrusion on free speech,'[3] and that it would 'conflict with important principles of our democratic society.' [4] Nevertheless, Truman would subsequently use it twelve times during his presidency.”
  13. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (1968) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization or PATCO was a United States trade union that operated from 1968 until its decertification in 1981 following an illegal strike that was broken by the Reagan Administration. According to labor historian Joseph A. McCartin, the 1981 strike and defeat of PATCO was 'one of the most important events in late twentieth century U.S. labor history'.”
  14. The Consequences of Reagan Breaking the '81 Air Traffic Controllers Strike (1/2). therealnews.com (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “Back in 1981, for those of you who remember, August 5 was the day that then-president Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers. The air traffic controllers were fired two days after their union, PATCO, declared a strike. They were demanding a pay raise, a shorter workweek, and better working conditions. It was a move that some historians say laid the groundwork for today's assault on labor.”
  15. Gracie Allen - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 November 2016. “The legend was born of their vaudeville routine and carried over to both radio and television. As the show wrapped up Burns would look at Allen and say 'Say good night, Gracie' to which she would usually simply reply 'Good night.' Popular legend has it that Allen would say, 'Good night, Gracie.' According to George Burns, recordings of their radio and television shows, and several histories of old-time radio (John Dunning's On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, for example), Gracie never used the phrase.”
  16. J. Edgar Hoover - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 November 2016. “Later in life and after his death, Hoover became a controversial figure as evidence of his secretive abuses of power began to surface. He was found to have exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI, and to have used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting presidents.”
  17. Buckminster Fuller - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 November 2016. “Fuller published more than 30 books, coining or popularizing terms such as 'Spaceship Earth', ephemeralization, and synergetic. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, and popularized the widely known geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their structural and mathematical resemblance to geodesic spheres.”
  18. Buckminsterfullerene - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 November 2016. “It was first generated in 1985 by Harold Kroto, James R. Heath, Sean O'Brien, Robert Curl, and Richard Smalley at Rice University.[2] Kroto, Curl and Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in the discovery of buckminsterfullerene and the related class of molecules, the fullerenes. The name is a reference to Buckminster Fuller, as C60 resembles his trademark geodesic domes.”
  19. Wilhelm Röntgen - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (27 March 1845 – 10 February 1923) was a German mechanical engineer and physicist, who, on 8 November 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, an achievement that earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901.”
  20. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “Additionally, inspired by the fiction of Jules Verne, Tsiolkovsky theorized many aspects of space travel and rocket propulsion. He is considered the father of spaceflight and the first person to conceive the space elevator, becoming inspired in 1895 by the newly constructed Eiffel Tower in Paris.”
  21. Volleyball - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 November 2016. “On February 9, 1895, in Holyoke, Massachusetts (USA), William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called Mintonette as a pastime to be played (preferably) indoors and by any number of players. The game took some of its characteristics from tennis and handball. Another indoor sport, basketball, was catching on in the area, having been invented just ten miles (sixteen kilometers) away in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, only four years before. Mintonette was designed to be an indoor sport, less rough than basketball, for older members of the YMCA, while still requiring a bit of athletic effort.”

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