Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hannah Arendt, the Movie

Twenty-thirteen marks the release, perhaps long overdue, of the story of Hannah Arendt, the gifted and controversial thinker. While Arendt's entire life was notable, the film concentrates on her coverage of the Eichmann trial in Israel for The New Yorker in 1961. Her personal discovery and publication that Adolf Eichmann was not a diabolical monster but simply a dull, ordinary bureaucrat obsessed with efficiency ignited a firestorm of criticism from the international Jewish community. The fact that she put blame on Jewish leaders for not taking an active enough stance against the Nazis led to her further ostracism.

 Arendt had close relationships, both intellectually and personally, with some major figures and institutions of the twentieth century. Raised and educated in pre-Nazi Germany, she was very close to philosopher Martin Heidegger, moved on to France and a coterie of Marxist intellectuals, eventually obtaining US citizenship in 1950. She held positions at UC-Berkley, Northwestern, Princeton, Yale, Chicago and other schools.

Even today, nearly 70 years after the destruction of the Nazi regime, people consider Hitler and his inner circle as the architects of a situation that led to the deaths of millions. Similarly, less catastrophic tyrants, the Khadaffis, Assads, Perons, Castros, Mugabes etc. are given the responsibility for the sufferings of their subjects. The reality is that these monsters cannot flourish without the day-to-day work of their bureaucrats. The insatiable record-keeping, the detailed regulations, the never-ending quest for and analysis of information and the draconian enforcement of decrees are all handled at the lowest levels of bureaucratic hierarchy. For bureaucrats there's no such thing as good or evil. They're just doing their job. It's with them that the "banality of evil" thrives.

Or, as Dr. Arendt herself put it so well in her essay, "On Violence", in Crises of the Republic, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1974:

"...the terms used since Greek antiquity to define the forms of government as the rule of man over man--of one or the few monarchy and oligarchy, of the best or the many in aristocracy and democracy. Today we ought to add the latest and perhaps most formidable form of such domination: bureaucracy or the rule of an intricate system of bureaus in which no men, neither one nor the best, neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible, and which could be properly called rule by Nobody. (If, in accord with traditional political thought, we identify tyranny as government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done.  It is this state of affairs, making it impossible to localize responsibility and to identify the enemy, that is among the most potent causes of the current world-wide rebellious unrest, its chaotic nature, and its dangerous tendency to get out of control and to run amuck.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Arrest of Louisville Cop Jeopardizes Over 100 Criminal Cases

Christopher Thurman, a Louisville Metro cop since 1999, has been indicted for theft by swindle and corruption for claiming amounts of overtime that more than doubled his salary since 2011, according to this article in the Louisville Courier-Journal. Facing a possible 10 year prison term for a conviction, the 37 year-old cop was released on his own personal recognizance.

Historically, criminal Louisville cops haven't done too badly in court. In 2003, two narcotics detectives, Mark Watson and Christie Robinson, were convicted in the most sweeping case of police corruption in the city’s history: forging judges’ signatures, collecting overtime not earned, illegal invasions of private homes, and pocketing money meant for investigations. Watson pleaded guilty to 299 felonies and was sentenced to 20 years in jail. He was paroled in 2007. Robinson was convicted of 20 felonies and sentenced to probation.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Perjurer Gets 2 Months For Putting Innocent Man Behind Bars For Four Years

The Richmond Times-Dispatch today carries the account of just one more strange incident in the annals of the so-called US justice system. The perjurer gets 2 months in prison after an innocent man spends four years in the slammer due to her false testimony.

Woman to serve 2 months for perjury in innocence case

Richmond Times-Dispatch | Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013 3:35 pm

HAMPTON -- Elizabeth Paige Coast was sentenced to two months in jail and ordered to make $90,000 in restitution to an innocent man who spent four years behind bars for a lie that snowballed.
Coast, 26, pleaded guilty to perjury in May and was sentenced today by Hampton Circuit Court Judge Bonnie L. Jones, who said she was deeply disturbed the case.
"This goes to the very heart of our judicial system," the judge said before imposing a five-year sentence and suspending all but two months which Coast will be allowed to serve on weekends.
The sentencing clears the way for the Virginia Court of Appeals to consider a petition for a writ of actual innocence filed by Johnathan C. Montgomery, a former neighbor of Coast accused of assaulting her in 2000 when she was 10 years old and he was 14.
Coast was charged with perjury after admitting to authorities last year that she made up the story that Montgomery had sexually assaulted her and that she lied on the witness stand at his June 23, 2008, trial.
"There are no words that I can say that will erase the damage I've done," a tearful Coast told the judge reading from a written statement. Facing up to 10 years in prison, he did not ask Jones for mercy.
Instead, focusing her remarks on Montgomery, Coast said, "I am ashamed for my cowardice. ... I want you to know I never meant to hurt you."
"I had no idea how far this lie would go," she said.
Earlier, Coast took the stand and under questioning by her lawyer, Ronald Smith, Coast said the whole thing started when she was 17 years old and was caught reading adult material on the Internet by her mother, who Coast described as strict and religious.
Her mother wanted to know why she was viewing the material and suggested perhaps that she been sexually assaulted. She said yes, hoping the matter would drop, but her mother kept pressing her for more information.
Under pressure for the name of her assailant she gave hem Montgomery's name, someone who had moved away years earlier.
"I just thought it would go away," she said. When Montgomery, who had moved to Florida, was arrested she said she stuck with the story out of fear.
"I was petrified of the police ... everyone in my life knew," she said. "I was afraid of what my family would think," she said.
She lied in court, the judge took her word over Montgomery's and convicted him.
Coast said, "I never forgot about Johnathan and my life was wrecked by it ... and so was his."
Smith told the judge the sentencing guidelines called for no jail time and asked she be given an alternative sentence that would allow her to make restitution.
Also, he said, "If you put her in jail the message you send to other people who have done this ... if you come forward we're going to lock you up."
The special prosecutor in the case, Hopewell Commonwealth's Attorney Richard K. Newman, said he agreed with much of what Smith said. "I've wrestled with this," he said of he case.
Nevertheless, he asked for a 10-year sentence with six years suspended so she would serve the same length of time as Montgomery.
Just prior to sentencing Coast, Jones asked, "What do I do? Is it an eye for an eye, or is there room for compassion?"
Her conviction and sentencing support the contention her trial testimony was a lie and her recantation the truth. The Virginia Attorney General's Office and Montgomery's lawyers asked the court of appeals to delay considering the petition until the perjury charge was resolved.
Montgomery was released from prison on a conditional pardon from Gov. Bob McDonnell pending the outcome of his petition for a writ of actual innocence.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Teresa Cliff-Ryan Crashes Out of Sochi

teresa cliff-ryan photo teresacliff-ryan.jpg Superstar cycling sprinter Teresa Cliff-Ryan put her bike in the garage and decided to attack the Olympic speedskating scene in the US Long Track Trials at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah shortly after Christmas. Already a champion in in-line skating, Cliff-Ryan had little experience on ice but was very likely to qualify for an Olympic spot when she was struck by another skater and seriously injured, as this story relates.

 A couple of years ago we asked NRC champion Janel Holcomb who she would be most disturbed to see on her wheel as she was approaching the finish line in a criterium. Her answer was quick: "Teresa Cliff-Ryan". We're confident that the determined Cliff-Ryan will soon come back from her injuries and hope to see her back on a bike and in competition again soon.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Elvis Impersonators

If American singing hero Elvis Presley hadn't over-indulged in junk food and drugs he might well have celebrated his 79th birthday last January 8. The untimely demise of one the country's most popular male vocalists and movie actors ever has led to a proliferation of impersonators through the years that have adopted his hair style, mannerisms and singing techniques and made perhaps a modest living imitating the "King". What would have happened if Elvis had throttled back a little bit on his gluttony and managed to survive 4 score years on the planet? Would his songs have continued to be the soft rock ballads that sent shivers down the spine of teen-age girls? Or would his itinerary have changed with the changing tastes of newer generations? Would a geriatric Elvis still be a heart-throb? And, most important, would the small but important field of his impersonators even have come to be? What would these guys be doing if Elvis was sitting in a Memphis nursing home, watching Seinfeld re-runs, waiting for a person that speaks English as second language to change his diaper? Shouldn't there be at least a couple of Elvis impersonators that are in the neighborhood of 79 years so us Elvis fans can see and hear him if he hadn't choked to death on a banana and peanut butter sandwich?

The real Elvis, before he overdid it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Emma Johansson Says, "Go To Flanders!"

Swedish cycling superstar Emma Johansson  explains why it makes sense to spend half of the year in bike-crazy Flanders.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Super Bowl Soak Job XLVIII

The annual National Football League ceremony celebrating the voluntary donation of millions to the quasi-criminals that own this non-profit  sham has ended. It was, apparently, even less exciting than normal, a 43-8 groaner whose outcome was never in doubt. And there was never any doubt that the NFL itself was to be the winner, at least financially, regardless of which group of violent neo-gladiators prevailed on the field.

Mark Di Ionno of the Newark Star-Ledger lets us in on some of the financials in this article. It should be required reading for every local politico that thinks pandering to these predators will do anything positive for the locals.