Friday, February 28, 2014

I'm Fit to be Tied -- Bow Tied, That is.

Wifey went shopping yesterday and bought me a couple of new Brooks Brothers bow ties.  These normally sell for $50 each, but the Gilroy Outlets had them available for $20 each.  One was a nice wine red color with little paisley designs.  I love it, and find it easier to tie than my green silk bow tie.  That's it there in the pic at the left.

I have another four bow ties scheduled to arrive today from the Tie Bar in Illinois.

Move over George Will.

Rainy Friday in California

We've had a pouring rain for the past three days.  A nap on a rainy day is utterly glorious. 

It stormed all night.  The howling wind woke me up a few times.  This morning, however my lawn was very green and looked quite enthusiastic.  I was afraid to walk on it lest I be eaten like that monster in "The Little Shop of Horrors."  Mr. Lawn didn't actually say anything, but I could infer from his facial expression that the water had better damn not stop, or a RICO lawsuit could be in the offing.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What Does Brett Kimberlin Want?

Brett Kimberlin has sued a number of bloggers and media pundits, claiming "defamation" in a racketeering conspiracy to "harm" him while the defendants enriched themselves by garnering many thousands of dollars in contributions to the National Bloggers Club, based on their defamation of Kimberlin.  Kimberlin also claims that the National Bloggers Club has wrongfully represented itself to be a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, to which contributions are legally deductible.

As a layman who is not an attorney, it would seem to me that this accusation against the National Bloggers Club ("NBC") should fail in short order, as Kimberlin does not have legal standing to sue for this, unless he himself has donated material sums of money to the National Bloggers Club based on his belief that the contributions are tax deductible.  Attorneys, correct me if I'm wrong, but Kimberlin cannot sue for other donors who donated under this scenario, because, (1) Kimberlin is not an attorney, (2) none of these donors have hired him to represent them in such a suit, and (3) Kimberlin does not know who these donors are, how much they donated, or their reasons for doing so.  Further, the NBC is under no legal obligation to disprove these allegations, it is up to BK to prove them, which on its face, appears impossible.

After reading through the legal briefs, claims and counter-claims, it seems that Brett Kimberlin wants these things, and they are the reasons for his lawsuits:

1.  To be given a clean slate in public opinion, and no longer have his past crimes held against him, on the grounds that he has served his time; to erase his criminal past from the collective mind of polite society, so that it does not work against his current projects and ability to earn income.

2.  To stop online and public discussion of his prior crimes, to help erase them from public memory, in order to facilitate the clean slate that he seeks;

3.  To redeem himself in the eyes of donors to his non profit organizations, which employed him, i.e. "Justice Through Music" and "Velvet Revolution."  If Kimberlin were successful in proving that the defendants "defamed" him through discussion of his past crimes, it might substantially restore his credibility with such donors and restore donations to his organizations.

4.  To be seen as a hero to his liberal donors, by seriously punishing prominent conservative bloggers and pundits, like Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck, both of whom are defendants in the federal lawsuit.  Also, the National Bloggers Club has a membership of conservative bloggers and pundits, and winning a lawsuit against the NBC would punish a whole mass of conservatives in a single blow, by implicating their organization in wrong-doing and unlawful activity -- and allow Kimberlin to receive damages to replenish his cash reserves.

5.  To relieve him of suspicion of unsolved crimes of which he is suspected (rightly or wrongly), such as the murder of Julia Scyphers and the dangerous SWATting episodes against various conservative bloggers.

6.  To exonerate himself as a "vexatious litigant," someone who abuses the court system to file frivolous lawsuits to punish political opponents with expensive legal fees, mental anguish, and many hours of time lost to more productive purposes.  Indeed, should Kimberlin lose these lawsuits, some of the defendants are determined to have Kimberlin declared a "vexatious litigant," thereby curtailing his filing of such lawsuits in the future.

  • Brett Kimberlin's "Scarlet Letter" of his past crimes cannot be erased, and that is simply one of the consequences of having been convicted of those crimes.
  • There is no legal or moral requirement to grant Kimberlin a "clean slate" in public opinion.  He could improve his reputation, however, by sincerely forswearing illegal or unethical practices now and in the future, and by refraining from filing frivolous lawsuits, which appear to be vindictive and vengeful and not supported by any legitimate claims for redress of valid grievances.
  • Kimberlin could further improve his lot in life by assuming a lower profile:  getting a job in a trade, like auto mechanics, landscaping, carpentry, etc, where earning money depends on producing a real product of economic value, and is not dependent on getting donations from the public.  
  • Become involved in nonpartisan charitable work, e.g., seeking to prevent youth crimes, help the poor, or assist ex-felons to reintegrate themselves into society as productive citizens. In other words, seek to provide value to society, rather than seeking dubious ways to acquire money through manipulating people or the system, as he appears to be doing now.

The Kimberlin Lawsuits Against Bloggers; Legal Briefs Make For Interesting Reading

I probably read W.J.J. Hoge's blog "Hogewash" more than any other lately.  Hoge is an educated and refined gentleman with a nice sense of humor, and his commentary on Brett Kimberlin's federal and state lawsuits is compelling.   Another site that deals with these lawsuits is that of Aaron Walker, at his blog "Allergic to Bull."  Both of these sites often publish links to legal briefs submitted for these cases.  I read them all.

It appears that the courts, both the federal one and the Maryland court, will allow the suits to go forward.  In fact, Marlyand has already denied all defendant motions to dismiss the case, but the federal court has not yet ruled on similar motions before it.  However, whether granted or denied, these motions to dismiss have been interesting and informative.  Courts have a legally-mandated prejudice in favor of plaintiffs, and must assume that the plaintiff's accusations are plausibly true, to be proven or disproven at trial.  

Most of the legal briefs associated with these two cases have been posted on Scribd or Pacer.  Pacer is an online database for federal filings.

In my humble layman's opinion, Brett Kimberlin's complaints and rationales are specious and implausible in the extreme, and he should lose both lawsuits.  However, this won't occur until many thousands of dollars in legal fees have been incurred by the defendants, and hundreds of hours spent studying legal briefs, claims and counter-claims.  

Lawsuits are ruinous, that's what these suits are really all about.  And, unlike homemade bombs of Tovex, they are legal.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Rotten Tomatoes" = Rotten Reviews; "The Monument Men"

The website "Rotten Tomatoes" reviews movies.  According to "Rotten Tomatoes," every movie from the first silent film on is an artistic disaster.  There are no good movies, only varying degrees of terrible, awful and vomit-worthy.

So what's going on at that website?  Obviously, it's a testosterone-fueled game:  the worse the review you can write, the bigger your gonads.

Today I went on the site to see what it said about the new movie "The Monument Men," based on a true story about a squad of art curators and experts who were drafted into the army to locate paintings and sculptures stolen by the Nazis, and to return them to their rightful owners.   The reviews were very negative.  One reviewer said the film was a cross between Gomer Pyle and Saving Private Ryan.

I found the film interesting and engaging, and worth the price of admission.  Screw you, Rotten Tomatoes.

Song For Sunday: "The Last Farewell" by Roger Whittaker

Here is one of my favorite songs. It was meaningful to me when I was separated from my fiancee on a work assignment in Phoenix, back in 1975, when the song first appeared. Not only is the song romantic, it reminds us of a time when "Old England" was a courageous nation of British patriots who put love of country and duty above their own lives and personal safety. That was the country we Americans were so proud to be descended from. Now today both of our nations are in decline, due to population replacement and the corrosive acid of socialism.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

How to Tie a Bow Tie

Stogie All Cleaned Up With Bow Tie
I like that H&R Block ad where a man wearing a green bow tie rambles on about the billion dollars in tax refunds that Americans leave behind when they try to do their own taxes.  I do taxes.  I wanted a green bow tie.  So I bought one off of E-Bay and decided to learn to tie it.

I have never before worn or tied a real bow tie.  When I was a kid, I wore those clip on bow ties to church or other dress-up occasions.  However, tying a real one is tricky, at least at first.

I watched a few YouTube videos on the subject, and most of them are worthless.  I managed to get through most of it, but the last step is the hard one, and I wound up with a wild glob of green silk bunched under my chin.  I looked more mad than dashing.  After much swearing and cussing at the infernal, rebellious ribbon, I gave up in disgust.  However, my secretary at work watched a YouTube video (the best one is here), and tied a very neat bow tie around a Pringles can.  I then had her tie it on me, and she again did a great job (see picture).

Now, after much practice, I can tie my own bow tie and plan to buy several more in different colors and designs (e.g. paisley, stripes, polka-dots).

The tax clients seemed to like the tie and their reactions were friendly, solicitous and cheerful.  A bow tie is dress-up, but in a friendly fun-filled way.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is Venezuela on the Brink of Civil War?

Well, well, it appears that popular opposition to Venezuela's communist leaders is reaching a critical point. Bigger and bigger crowds of demonstrators are rallying against the socialist insanity, and the Marxists are nervous.  This reminds me of Chile in 1973, when communist leadership had ruined the economy and left the people in dire straits.  Massive protests occurred there too, when grocery store shelves were empty and there were no more jobs.  Finally, the Chilean military decided it had to act, and deposed the moronic Marxist Salvador Allende.  American leftists to this day swear to God Almighty that Chile would have become a socialist paradise had not President Nixon "declared economic warfare" on the "democratically elected" Socialist Allende.  Socialism never works, but leftists never run out of excuses for the failure.

Venezuela is now experiencing the same kind of economic dislocation, because socialism destroys prosperity, it never, ever creates it.  You can order a doubling of the minimum wage, as Allende did, and the result will  be widespread unemployment and  businesses closing their doors.  Socialism is a radical religion that believes in a kind of perpetual motion, that you can eliminate production and magically have more, that you can kill the Kulaks and dispossess the producers, and somehow the goodies will just keep flowing like manna from heaven.

Socialism always fails, but there is no end of the fools who will continue to impose it on the populace, thinking that this time it will work.  And if it doesn't, if millions starve, well then, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

More at Powerline.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Letters From Earth: Mark Twain's Most Controversial Tale

I saw a scene on FaceBook, of a bench on a cliff overlooking surf and beach below.  The caption read, "If you could spend an hour in conversation with anyone living or dead, who would it be?"

It is a fascinating question.  I would undoubtedly opt for conversing with someone who is now dead, some personality from history.  They might include Thomas Edison, Robert E. Lee, General George Patton, John Lennon, Jesus Christ, Vince Guaraldi, Jefferson Davis, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin...the list goes on and on.

Mark Twain
However, one of my top choices would be Mark Twain, the great American writer of the 19th Century.  I find him to be a fascinating personality; I love his wit and wisdom.  Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemmons, was born in 1835 and died in 1910.  He is most famous for his novels, like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, as well as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and The Prince and the Pauper.  He also wrote some great short stories, like "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyville."  All of these works have strong moral messages, and focus on the hypocrisies and idiosyncrasies of the human race.

Two of his novels, Connecticut Yankee and Prince and the Pauper, make the reader see through the other guy's eyes, and take a walk in the other guy's shoes.  If you are not the pariah in a society, reviled and spat upon, you should consider how it would feel.  Some believe these two novels were a disguised appeal for better treatment of blacks in America, at a time when a more obvious appeal would have been met with derision and rejection.

Mark Twain had an amazingly open mind for his time.  I especially enjoyed one of his most controversial short stories, "Letters From Earth."  In this story, Satan is one of Heaven's Archangels but gets on the wrong side of God, and is banished from Heaven for a time.  Having nothing to do, Satan visits earth and finds human concepts of God and Heaven to be highly errant and humorous.  He writes to the other Archangels still in Heaven about his observations.  It is a thought-provoking read, and quite funny -- at least, in the first half of the story.  The second half isn't funny at all, but quite alarming.

Satan finds the tale of Adam and Eve strange and contradictory.  He writes:
Naturally you will think the threat to punish Adam and Eve for disobeying was of course not carried out, since they did not create themselves, nor their natures nor their impulses nor their weaknesses, and hence were not properly subject to anyone's commands, and not responsible to anybody for their acts. It will surprise you to know that the threat was carried out. Adam and Eve were punished, and that crime finds apologists unto this day. The sentence of death was executed.
Satan continues:
Very well, God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden, and eventually assassinated them. All for disobeying a command which he had no right to utter. But he did not stop there, as you will see. He has one code of morals for himself, and quite another for his children. He requires his children to deal justly -- and gently -- with offenders, and forgive them seventy-and-seven times; whereas he deals neither justly nor gently with anyone, and he did not forgive the ignorant and thoughtless first pair of juveniles even their first small offense and say, "You may go free this time, and I will give you another chance." On the contrary! He elected to punish their children, all through the ages to the end of time, for a trifling offense committed by others before they were born. He is punishing them yet. In mild ways? No, in atrocious ones.
And this:
You would not suppose that this kind of Being gets many compliments. Undeceive yourself: the world calls him the All-Just, the All-Righteous, the All-Good, the All-Merciful, the All-Forgiving, the All-Truthful, the All-Loving, the Source of All Morality. These sarcasms are uttered daily, all over the world. But not as conscious sarcasms. No, they are meant seriously: they are uttered without a smile.
It is obvious that Mark Twain did not have a high opinion of many Judeo-Christian beliefs.  Through the years I have come to agree with "Letters From Earth," or much of it anyway, and have rejected many of these doctrines.  A just God would not torture souls in Hell for all eternity for being just what He made them to be.  Nor would he order the slaughter of innocents, as He allegedly did to the Midianites.

I will say that being a Christian has the effect of making people more loving and forgiving of each other, and kind to strangers, and predisposed to do good towards their fellow passengers to the grave.  Christianity does much good for the world, and for the human soul.  However, its bad points are that it saddles its adherents with feelings of guilt and fear, for merely being human; and this deters Christians from fully enjoying their lives on earth.

I like Mark Twain very much.  Like him, I refuse to live a life of guilt and fear.

Postscript:  "Letters From Earth" becomes a bitter rant against the God of the Bible in the second half of the tale, describing the mass murder of the Midianites, saving only the virgin women (to be later raped or sold into slavery) and some of the little children.  Indeed, the Midianite episode describes a cruel God similar to Allah, and is comparable to Mohammed's slaughter of the Quraysh, a Jewish tribe, in 622 AD.  When I first read these Biblical passages, many years ago, I was disgusted and immediately concluded that no just God would order such an atrocity.  However, man is quite capable of such slaughter while using God as his excuse and justification.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Stogie Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.

My wife and I have been married for over 37 years.  When we were dating, she refused to believe that she was “the one” for me, and always told me “I’m just your Saturday girl.”  As if I had a different girl for every day of the week!  Yeah, right.

Wifey was referring to the Liza Minelli movie “The Sterile Cuckoo,” whose theme song was “Come Saturday Morning” by the Sandpipers.  We went and saw that movie together.  So now that song always reminds me of my young and sweet girlfriend, now my wife.  This morning when we exchanged Valentine's gifts and cards, mine was addressed "To My Saturday Girl."

Here’s the video of the song for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Far-Fetched Feminist Folly

The Other McCain has a post about feminism today.  One quote bears repeating, as it is, IMHO, the absolute crux of what feminism is all about.  He writes:

...feminism is an ideology developed by lesbian Marxists who hate men. Feminist ideology is therefore not about improving relationships between men and women; it’s about teaching women to hate men, so that all women can become Marxist lesbians.
This is a concise but accurate summation of feminist folly. I noted this very same truth back in the late 70's when a female feminist colleague invited me to see a one woman play in San Francisco, about feminist Virginia Woolf.

The small audience was filled with lesbians (me being an exception) who were all members of NOW (the National Organization for Angry Lesbians Women). My earlier impression was that NOW and its feminist followers were a legitimate movement to support women's rights and improve relations between women and men, particularly in the market place. I was quickly disabused of that notion.  The actress and the audience demonstrated an obvious bitterness and a hostility towards men.

I later told my friend that the NOW members seemed to all hate men, or even wanted to be men themselves. They had no more credibility with me. I was faced with the awful truth, that they were a bunch of kooks.

Note:  by "Kooks" I mean a group of people who believe in weird, implausible, illogical or unnatural ideologies or scenarios.  Kooks rarely have anything beneficial to offer mankind.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

THE BEATLES - 50 Years Later, a Personal Reminiscence

February 9, 1964 was a Sunday, and that was the night the Ed Sullivan Show was live on television.  On that night, fifty years ago today, the Beatles debuted in America on that show.

On that long ago Sunday, I was practicing with my rock and roll band in my best friend's garage in the Kooser area of San Jose.  Joe was my best friend through high school, and is still a friend today.

Joe's mom stuck her head in the door to the garage and told us to come quick, and hear this new band on television.  We turned off our amplifiers, put our guitars down and sat on the floor in front of the television in the living room.  The Beatles came on and girls were screaming.  While the Beatles were singing and playing, captions appeared beneath each face giving the name of the Beatle on the screen.  The one beneath John's face read "Sorry girls, he's married."

What was striking about the Beatles was their appearance.  Gone were the Elvis-style pompadour hair helmets.  These guys looked like Little Boy Blue with their hair mops, devoid of pomade, but somehow, we liked it.  They wore cute little black suits with white shirts and black ties.  They used harmony singing, except for the Beach Boys, this was almost unheard of!  When the show was over, the Beatles bowed from the waist in unison.  We went back to our guitars and tried to pick out the tune to "She Loves You," but found it difficult.  This music was a lot different than the boogie woogie rock beat we were used to.

Early in 1964, we were all still in a blue funk over the assassination of President Kennedy.  Traditional rock and roll was dying out.  Anyone who could barely carry a tune was recording songs heavily overlaid with echo chamber effects (to hide their crummy voices), and instead of guitar, bass and drums, had whole orchestras providing the instrumentals.  It sucked.  Elvis was still making forgettable movies like "It Happened at the World's Fair" and Dion sang some monstrosity about "Do the Madison," another idiotic dance step.  It didn't catch on, thankfully.

The music fad just before the Beatles arrived was the hootenanny.  Hootenannies featured folks singers playing acoustic guitars and singing crap like "Don't Let the Rain Come Down -- My Roof's Got a Hole In It and I Might Drown."  One could could only hope.

If you weren't there, it may be hard to understand just how special the Beatles were.  They launched "the British Invasion," a whole slew of British bands that saved rock and roll and created a new genre of great music, i.e. British Rock.  Following in their footsteps were the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Animals, and many more.

I saw the Beatles perform live at the Cow Palace near San Francisco in 1964 and 1965.  They were so cutting edge, so innovative, so talented -- George's fantastic guitar solos added so much to John's and Paul's singing, with Ringo providing the drum beat.  They seemed magical, and it was a magical time in those early days.

Now, fifty years later, John and George are dead, Paul and Ringo are in their seventies.  When I see a photograph of the foursome now, I remember that magic and how it felt, and they still seem cutting edge to me, even though they're not.  Cutting edge today is rap crap and stupid gimmicks, and "songs" that you can't even hum.

Now, like the night they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, popular music is in a low place, dominated by no-talent hacks, the great rock beat nowhere to be found.  Now is the perfect opportunity for a new rock group to emerge, to capture the public imagination, to restore the beat, revive the magic, and restore the joy that rock music can bring.  I hope I live to see it.

Here's some of their greats.

A Rainy Day, a Good Cigar, God and the Near Death Experience

I delivered some bookkeeping reports and checks to a client in Gilroy this morning, then swung by the Morgan Hill Cigar Company in Morgan Hill.  I bought five Churchill cigars for $7 each, and am enjoying one right now.  I am sitting in the backyard gazebo; the sky is completely overcast and the air is cold and moist with rain.  Great nap weather, and I shall avail myself of it after my cigar.

As I grow older, I think more and more about death and what comes next.  I am not afraid of death, but feel I need to prepare for it.   I am not a member of any religion, but I believe in God, not a big man in the sky with a giant beard, but as a force that permeates and includes the universe and anything beyond.

I have been reading books on the near death experience (NDE), and find them very interesting.  One of the best was Science and the Near Death Experience, How Consciousness Survives Death, by Chris Carter.  Carter discusses quantum mechanics and posits that consciousness is not produced by the brain, though it uses the brain to carry out bodily functions in the here and now.  Carter gives examples of how consciousness is greatly expanded at times when the brain is near death or otherwise nonfunctioning.  Of course, he points to NDEs as proof.  (Note:  it is not true that a nonfunctioning brain makes one into a Democrat, though the mistake is understandable.)  Carter spends some time refuting skeptic theories about the NDE.

Near Death Experiences sometimes occur when someone flatlines and is near physical death.  The person experiences an out-of-body perspective, where he or she watches from above a team of doctors working to save his or her life, from a vantage point on the ceiling.  If the NDE continues for a time, the voyager is pulled into a dark tunnel with a bright light at the end, and finds himself speeding toward the light, which grows bigger and nearer.  He meets and communicates with departed friends and relatives. He may experience a life review, where every moment of his life is replayed for his viewing and lessons learned. Wonderful gardens, colors and music are often experienced during the NDE as well.  The greatest impression NDE voyagers describe is being enveloped in great love, with a feeling of peace, acceptance and well-being.

Finally, those who live to tell about the experience are sent back to this life.  They are told "it's not your time, you have to go back," at which time they are returned to their body.  NDEs are fairly common, and have been described in many cultures and time periods.  One's religious persuasion usually has little effect on what the voyager sees, hears and experiences.  Most people who have an NDE lose all fear of death, and may find renewed purpose and meaning for their lives.

Another book I am reading is The Experience of God, by David Bentley Hart.  Hart's book seeks to clarify issues and terms for atheists, so that deists and atheists can at least be on the same page in the great debate.  His book clarifies some concepts for me, but his writing is highly technical and filled with vernacular, so frequent use of the dictionary is necessary.  The reader has to work quite hard to get to the meaning of his essays, and I suspect many will give up before finishing the book.  It is not written for the layman, unfortunately.

The opponents of both these writers are generally called "materialists," that is, people who believe there is no reality beyond our physical existence.  If they can't see it, smell it, taste it or measure it, then (or so they believe) it does not exist.  Needless to say, I am not a materialist.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

It's Raining in California!

We're having a strong rain this morning in Northern California.  Wet staccato on the roof, streets shiny and wet, WATER.  We'll take it.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Of Course We're Racists -- Deal With It

I notice that a lot of conservative articles on FaceBook are somewhat defensive over the left's only epithet for conservatives, that we are "racists."  Defensive conservatives post pictures of black conservatives and other ethnic Republicans, as if they were going to convince liberals of an unfortunate mistake and set the record straight.  This is a waste of time, and counter-productive.

For instance, leftists are now engaging in their usual paroxysms over virulent, omnipresent racism, i.e. the reaction to the Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad.  If you found the Coke ad offensive, then you are the usual hater and racist, blah blah blah to infinity.

My advice:  don't defend yourself from such asinine charges.  Don't write rebuttals, or waste any time trying to disprove the Commie-left's B.S. If you do, you are merely demonstrating their effectiveness in putting you on the defensive.  You are lending credibility to their insults.  You are producing the smoke that the naive will believe is a fire.

Personally, I don't give a hoot in Hell what any liberal, leftist or Democrat thinks of me, and neither should you.  The only way you can stop them from calling you a racist, is to become a Welfare Slug/Islam Appeaser/Terrorist Apologist/ Tax Until They Bleed/ White-Hating Communist.

Just like them.

P.S.  Regarding the link-bait title of this post, the definition of a "racist" is anyone who wins an argument with a liberal.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Harsh Verdict on Italian Justice

I am not used to seeing truth and common sense from the U.K. Guardian.  However, on Italy's latest perversion of justice, they really got it right.  Read the original article here.

Knox and Sollecito case delivers harsh verdict on Italian justice
The Italian justice system has pulled off an astonishing and unenviable feat: finding Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito guilty of murder – for the second time – without a shred of evidence to substantiate the verdict.
This case, so long and tortured and so unsatisfactory to many, seems destined to go down not just as a breathtaking miscarriage of justice, but one that raises serious doubts about Italy’s ability to mete out criminal justice based on factual verification and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Consider: the appeals court that in 2011 found Knox and Sollecito not guilty of murdering Meredith Kercher and set them free after four years in prison made clear that almost every pillar of evidence mounted against them had collapsed. A court-ordered reappraisal of the forensic evidence completely dismantled the prosecution’s claims about the purported murder weapon, refuted the contention that Sollecito’s DNA was on Kercher’s torn bra strap, and made clear there were no physical traces of either defendant in the room where the murder took place.
Nothing, in other words, tied them to the crime except for theories and conjecture unsupported by actual evidence. By contrast, the DNA of Rudy Guede, the Ivorian-born drifter now serving a 16-year sentence for the murder, was all over the crime scene.
The high court justices who threw out the first appeal and ordered a new trial last March did so not because it had doubts about the forensic reappraisal, but rather because, in their view, the appeals court had focused too much on the shortcomings of individual pieces of evidence instead of examining the case “as a whole”. This alone was a deeply disconcerting line of argument.
The high court was convinced, even without proof, that Meredith Kercher had died as a result of a multi-person sex game gone wrong and said a new trial must take this into account. Enter Alessandro Crini, the lead prosecutor in the latest appeal, who did his best to follow the high court’s directions but could not make the sex-game theory stick.
Instead, Crini came up with an entirely new scenario, unheard in any previous court proceedings going back to 2008, in which he envisioned Knox and Kercher arguing over an unflushed toilet and then somehow allowing the argument to escalate to the point where Knox pulled an eight-inch kitchen knife from her purse and Sollecito plunged his pocket knife into her neck. Guede’s role, Crini claimed, was limited to “satisfying himself in barbarous fashion” – in other words, seeking sexual gratification while the murder took place in front of him.
The kitchen knife has been tested repeatedly and it is now agreed by all parties that Kercher’s DNA was not on it. Sollecito’s penknife, meanwhile, was never seriously considered to be a factor until Crini suddenly decided it was—again, without a shred of forensic evidence. The prosecution had nothing to place Knox or Sollecito in the house on the night of the murder, much less in Kercher’s room. And it had no motive to offer beyond the ludicrous notion – also unproven -- that Knox was moved to homicidal rage because Kercher accused her of being messy around the house, and Sollecito was willing to go along with the crime out of love for her.
Somehow – we won’t know the reasoning for another three months -- the Florence appeals court took this nonsense seriously enough to find Knox and Sollecito guilty and sentence them to 28-and-a-half years and 25 years respectively. The case will now return to the high court, which must confirm the sentences before they take effect. The future certainly looks grim for the defendants, especially for Sollecito who is in Italy and has been ordered to surrender his passport. Knox, who is in the US, will most likely avoid having to return to prison in Italy but she can never go back there and remains mired in legal costs and liabilities.
A case that began as tragedy and turned swiftly to farce under the glare of the international media spotlight has thus taken on new tragic overtones. It boils down to an Italian justice system more interested in saving face than in looking at the evidence. In another judicial environment, the focus might be on the multiple pieces of evidence presented in court by the Perugia police and by the original prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, which fell apart on closer scrutiny; on the fact that Mignini was fighting off criminal charges of prosecutorial misconduct when he mounted the original case; on the fact that Sollecito was put in solitary confinement for six months solely on the basis of the blood-stained print of a shoe that was later demonstrated not to be his; or on the fact that chief homicide detective on the case, Monica Napoleoni, has since been removed from her job on suspicion that she abused her position to try to intimidate her ex-husband in a child custody dispute.
Those who believe Knox and Sollecito are guilty have often complained that the memory of the crime victim, Meredith Kercher, has been lost in the media shuffle. The real scandal, though, is the way the entire Italian judicial system has itself tarnished Kercher’s memory by chasing phantoms and needlessly tormenting two wholly innocent young people, all because it won’t admit that it blew the case from the start.

Andrew Gumbel was co-author of Raffaele Sollecito's account of the case, Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox

Coca-Cola's Super Bowl Ad - a Marketing Disaster?

Coca-Cola's Super Bowl ad was severely panned on FaceBook, after Allen West posted an image of a Muslim woman who appeared in the ad.  West noted that "Coca-Cola may not be 'America's Brand' anymore."

The ad was a hackneyed tribute to "diversity" and "multiculturalism," just when many Americans are beginning to realize that these political fads have divided and displaced Americans, and do much more harm than good.  The melting pot has been replaced with the salad bowl, and the salad is poisonous.  We are no longer e pluribus unum, "from many, one."  Now we are e pluribus pluribus, from many, still many -- not one American amalgam of many ethnicities, but many squabbling and separate cultures with less and less in common -- or so it seems.

The ad features people singing "America the Beautiful" in different languages, in the attire of various cultures, including the young Muslim woman above (she didn't sing though, as Muslims forbid music).  Ah, the wonders of multiculturalism, that gave us 911, the Fort Hood massacre, and the Boston Marathon bombing.  It brings a tear to my eye.

I think many, if not most Americans, have had enough diversity to last a lifetime.  It's enough to make this devoted Coke fan try Pepsi.

Just for the record, my family is European, Asian and Hispanic, but we all speak English and consider ourselves Americans.  We should focus on the things that we have in common, not on ethnic differences.  As for those cultures who hate us and wish us harm, they are not welcome and are not to be celebrated.  Period.

Super Bowl 2014

The Super Bowl is today.  Yippee. 

Who will win?  The Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos?

Losing is One Thing
Getting Crushed is Another
Personally I don't really care, since my favorite team isn't in it.  Most of my relatives are rooting for Denver.  Yes, it would be nice to see Peyton Manning get a Super Bowl ring.  He's a great player.  On the other hand, the Seahawks have never won a Super Bowl, and it would be nice to see them win their first ever.

Be still my beating heart.

Update:  With 3 minutes to go in the first half, the Seahawks are making fools of the Denver Broncos, 22 - 0.

Half Time:  I am generally cynical and dismissive of pop groups today, as they don't compare to that old fashioned rock and roll and R&B, and must rely on gimmicks to hold an audience.  However, Bruno Mars and his band really got my attention.  They impressively resemble the bands of the early sixties, before the British Invasion, all wearing the same gold tuxedo jacket, white shirts and black ties, and black pants, standing shoulder to shoulder in a common front, like bands of yore.  Their energy was remarkable and they sounded good.  I loved the bass player's gold-colored Fender Precision bass. 

The Red Hot Chili Peppers sounded too much like rap for my tastes.  They looked terrible, prancing around in Bermuda shorts and shirtless, festooned with ugly tattoos.  

Beginning of third quarter:  the Bronco's humiliation continued when the Seahawks returned the opening kickoff all the way to the end zone, making the score 29-0 after the extra point.  This is a very one-sided game.

Seahawks get the ball, score another touchdown.  Score now 36-0.  The Broncos don't deserve to be in the Super Bowl this year, they are an embarrassment in orange.  

Final score:  43-8, Seahawks.  Congratulations Seattle, the best team in the NFL is beyond dispute.