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March 2014

"Get on Up"

A movie about The Godfather of Soul. It looks good. (But then, these days, most trailers look good.)

Mr. Brown's estate sure was--is--a mess. It would be funny if it weren't tragic. Consider these two paragraphs:

Mr. Brown's ostensible widow and the mother of James Brown II wants at least a third and perhaps half of his riches—though, as a matter of law, she is almost certainly not his widow nor, as a matter of human physiology, the mother of his biological child. Five of the six children named in the will want the trust dissolved and the will invalidated, which would entitle them to equal shares of the entire estate; that puts them at odds with the sixth sibling, Terry, and his boys, Forlando and Romunzo, who want the will and educational trusts to stand. At least two other daughters whom Mr. Brown never acknowledged also want a share of the pot, as well as eighteen years of back child support. Four more potential children—Jane and John Does I, II, III, and IV in the court records—might have similar claims. The three men Mr. Brown named as trustees have resigned, though two of them, Albert H. "Buddy" Dallas and Alford Bradley, want to be reinstated, because they say a judge bullied them into quitting. That same judge, Doyet Early, wants to put the third former trustee, David Cannon, in jail for not repaying $373,000 in misappropriated funds. Cannon says he can't afford it, which looks bad considering he spent almost $900,000 in cash to build a house in Honduras last year. State investigators are working a criminal case on Cannon, too. The two special administrators Judge Early appointed to replace those three men, meanwhile, are being sued in federal court by Forlando Brown, who argues that they were illegally put in charge and are improperly attempting to shift assets from the trust to the estate, from which their $300-an-hour fees could be paid. The administrators, Adele J. Pope and Robert Buchanan, have in turn sued Bradley, Cannon, Dallas, entertainment lawyer Joel Katz, his firm (Greenberg Traurig), and Enterprise Bank in state court, alleging a years-long conspiracy to swindle millions from Mr. Brown. All of those people have lawyers, and many of them have more than one. Tomi Rae Hynie, the widow who's probably not technically a widow, has five. Her son has his representative, a guardian ad litem, and the guardian ad litem has his own lawyer. Pope and Buchanan have lawyers. Even the anonymous beneficiaries of the trust, all those needy and deserving would-be students, have a lawyer—the attorney general of South Carolina—and they used to have two until Judge Early tossed out the Georgia attorney general.

And those are the relatively dignified legal proceedings.

More than seven years later, the estate is still unsettled. Recent developments recounted here (May 2013), here (December 2013), and here (March 2014).

"Up From Nicotine: Why the stigma against e-cigarettes?"

Ben Stein asks a question:

So, here is what I wonder: Why fight a product that is demonstrably incomparably less harmful than smoking cigarettes — and is being substituted for cigarettes by at least some smokers?

Maybe I am missing something, but e-cigs seem to me an almost heaven-sent gift to public health: a simulacrum of smoking, the pleasure of nicotine — and, or almost no, tar. Why are we not happy about this? Why are city governments fighting these? What am I missing? A gigantic public health benefit is coming our way. Why are we shouting, “Stop!”?

As a public service, I'll help Mr. Stein out. We are now at a point in American history in which no social problem can ever be solved or even seriiously mitigated without putting a lot of lobbyists, PR flacks, and squads of social do-gooders out of work.