mercredi 7 décembre 2011

Foxy Knoxy: The Musical

Most people remember Tonya Harding, right? Did you know that she just turned 40 and had a baby this year?! I found a photo of her on the internet and was amazed to note the physical resemblance between Tonya and Amanda Knox. Harding looks like an older, heavier version of the 24-year old Knox. Tonya's trials and tribulations became fodder for various media, including a number of books (Celebrities in Disgrace and Women on Ice, the latter a collection of feminist essays, to cite but two examples) which in turn have spawned plays, movies, an opera (!) and a musical that had a run in Portland a couple of years back. There were lots of Tonya Harding jokes too and I bet the number one choice for a Halloween costume in the mid-90's was Tonya Harding. So there is lots of common ground, for sure. Speaking of Halloween costumes, some bloggers and other commenters found it a bit distasteful of Foxy to dress as what appeared to be a cat burglar and get photographed doing so as she hit a party. You can read one reaction here. Of course, one member of the Foxy Furies was on duty and responded with a defensive "let the girl live" post. But it went nowhere.

Foxy Knoxy, acquitted on appeal of the murder of Meredith Kercher, has already entered into that peculiar state of existence known as "being a cultural product line". There is the matter of the final automatic appeal by Italy's highest court, which could put a spanner in the works, but quite frankly I think Italy is glad to be rid of the American. That's what UK journalist Sharon Feinstein discovered recently, when she traveled to Perugia to interview the prison warden and the inmate who shared a cell with Foxy for three years. You can read about it here. Poor Ms. Feinstein has since been dealing round the clock with the Foxy Furies, a small band of apparently unemployed people who spend every waking hour hounding anyone who questions the appeal verdict or who dares to criticize their idol Foxy. Ms. Feinstein's crime is to have published the interviews on her blog. She has done an admirable job of dealing with the attack dogs but I believe she's a bit weary by now. They do wear you down.

Anyway, back to Foxy. She has signed with a lawyer, who will represent her in talks with potential publishers. A big-wig agent whose clients include Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. He will help negotiate all of the various "official" variations on the Foxy Knoxy theme and narrative - the book by Knoxy, the movie based on same (which is bound to be dull), and perhaps eventually a rock opera or a musical. If they hurry, Knox will still be age appropriate enough to star as herself. And let's not forget the exclusive interview. Barbara Walters seems to be hot on Foxy's trail, having left a couple of enticing crumbs. For example, she has named Foxy as one of the most intriguing people of 2011. I think she comes in at number 5. Something like that. Walters must be hoping PR guru David Marriott will forgive her for the tacky bit on her show after the acquittal, where she and her gal pals wondered aloud if Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox "got away with murder" because they are attractive as that term is currently defined.

It seems everyone is cashing in. Bottom feeder Sharlene Martin, who negotiated the publication of OJ's If I Did It after the Goldman family obtained the rights, has signed Raffaele Sollecito and Steve Moore. Raffie is Foxy's former beau and he too was acquitted on appeal. Raffie is an avid knife collector, by the way. Just wanted to get that out there. As for Steve Moore, he apparently is a retired FBI agent. He has tried to parlay the murder of Meredith into a new career for himself "in the media", as his wife Michelle says. I guess he hopes that publishing a book dealing with his life as a g-man could help him gain some much needed cred.

I personally think that all of the above will eventually be fodder for the definitive and inevitably irreverent treatment of this sad saga. The players mentioned will all eventually figure in a wicked parody showcasing a monumental amount of human folly and vanity. Their names may be changed and their story slightly altered. But make no mistake about it. The story of what happened to Meredith Kercher, lovely Meredith Kercher, will never be told by those who are in a position to tell it. And all these other stories have been over told and over sold. The problem is that the PR guru (and the assorted fixers, lawyers and other shady types) must now be paid. So the books must get written and the movie rights must be sold and you must all pitch in with your pennies and other spare change. This acquittal cost a bundle!

By the way, the link to the news about the book is in French. The media event was amply covered in the English-language press, but I liked this one because the title suggests that the book in question, penned by Knox (and probably a co-author, according to sources), could be a "confession". Fat chance! If it were, it might be vaguely interesting! Will Savive has written a blog post worth reading on the role of Barnett in ensuring that Curt and Edda's really big bills get paid in our lifetime.

It is interesting to note how intertwined the names of Knox, OJ and Casey Anthony have become - on so many levels. This may be one reason why all the big wigs who stand to gain financially from the Knox book deal are taking such great pains to draw a distinction, especially between Knox and Casey "Kryptonite" Anthony. But the parallels just keep pushing their way back to the surface, like an annoying person who just won't drown for Christ's sake! According to the ever excellent Button, Anthony too has a "mob" of rabid supporters who swoop in for online attacks whenever any negative press is detected.

vendredi 2 décembre 2011

Proud to be an illiberal moron?

There are many nice things about living in France as opposed to America. One of them is the absence of bumper stickers. Keep your illiberal ideas, and even your liberal ones, to yourself! I don't need to know what the overweight, badly dressed, middle-aged, tight-lipped white man driving the rundown Ford Fiesta in front of me northbound on 99 in Seattle yesterday at approximately 11:30 am thinks about the Occupy movement or Obama. I think maintaining the mystery is usually the right thing to do, especially when you are surrounded by virtual strangers.

But since he feels the need to share this information, so will I. His piece of shit car was festooned with two bumpa stickas:

Actually, the hippy one said "Shut Up Hippies" but I could not find that on the internet.

mardi 29 novembre 2011

As the world burns, America indulges in navel-gazing

Shaka Ponk

If this doesn't get you moving, there's something wrong with you.

And they're French!

dimanche 27 novembre 2011

Deer Harbor, Orcas Island

How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains? Well, if coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we’d have been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind. You better believe things had been different. I’d have gone pro in a heartbeat. I’d be making millions of dollars and living in a big ol’ mansion somewhere, soaking it up in a hot tub with my soul mate. - Uncle Rico

lundi 7 novembre 2011

Falling back is as much fun as springing ahead

It would have been nice to have some advance warning. Walt left for practice yesterday at what seemed to be 9:30 (for a 10 am start). I discovered shortly after he left that it was only 8:30 (thank you, facebook) and was able to communicate that news quickly. On the plus side, the whole day - and it was a crisp and sunny one - got immediately longer, or so it seemed until everything got dark at 5 pm. When that happens, you just want to hunker down under the covers until April or May if you live in these parts.

Only the day before, Saturday, I was marveling over the length of the period called dusk, as we drove through Blewitt Pass towards Seattle. The sky seemed to extend out west forever, and no I can't post a photo because I didn't take one. The car was moving. Those photos never come out.

We spent more time in the tourist trap that is Leavenworth than was strictly necessary. I didn't know there was so much stuff made in China and sold in cutesy gift shops. Is there anything going on in Leavenworth that I need to know about? Anything cultural, for example. I saw only shops and more shops, selling some frankly hideous looking shit. We stopped at the Icicle brewery for an IPA that could have been colder given the name of the place. It was pleasant; we met the proud owner of one of the local shops. Let's leave it at that. He is German-born, at least. Stopped in Leavenworth one day and fell in love with the place. Go figure.

Then the Huskies lost to the Ducks, which was inevitable. Then came the extra hour on Sunday and a long walk for Miss Neko in Jack Block Park, followed by an excursion downtown for a winter casual coat and then a stop at the Brave Horse. I love that place. I just wish the menu had more options. Brave Horse has a really good no meat burger made with black beans and green chilis. I don't know how they manage to achieve a texture that resembles a steak tartare. And they have great cole slaw, though sadly the sauce has mayo in it. Walt had a giant pretzel and mussels. I think having a drink and some food at 3pm helped to take the edge off the sudden darkness at 5 pm. Walt kept trying to figure out what time it "really" was; I told him this would only lead to sorrow and frustration. The cats woke up at 4:40am for breakfast, but that's okay because we went to bed at 9:30pm, which was not - as I reminded Walt - "really" 10:30pm. I'm with les agriculteurs français on this one: I wish the world would stop tinkering with time and clocks twice a year and just let things be what they are. But until that happens, and it will never happen, the best and only remedy is to live in the moment. In an ideal world, winter hibernation would also be a viable option for humans.

jeudi 3 novembre 2011

Stephanie Kercher's open letter marking 4th anniversary of Meredith's death

FOR us, this has only ever been about Meredith. She had been in Perugia for eight weeks and I had moved away from home only three weeks previously. We had stayed in touch updating each other with the exciting new things we were doing.

I had just got home from a training course when Mum called me, her voice trembling, relaying news that a 21-year-old English girl had been found under a mattress in Italy.

Trying to calm Mum down I began calling Mez on her mobile. I ended up leaving a voice message explaining what had happened, telling her to be safe and to call me as soon as she could.

I finished, as always, saying “I love you”. I even emailed her the news page so she knew what I was talking about... Little did I know I was already too late.

Dad’s was the next voice I heard. Through tears he told me the name he had been given by a newspaper was Meredith. I cannot remember what I thought – it was a mixture of disbelief and sheer pain. I did not know what to think or do and then my body just sunk.

When I arrived at Mum’s the pain in my chest was unbearable as I was told the few details of what had happened – the broken window, her door locked on the inside.

Thoughts and scenarios were racing through my head faster than I could comprehend and I collapsed into my parents’ arms, filled with the fear Meredith must have endured that night.

We stayed up all night watching the news, waiting for any concrete information. The Halloween photo of Meredith was the first to appear and I spun round to Mum and said ‘That’s not Mez! That’s not Mez, Mum!’

I was adamant it was not my little sister, but Mum stroked my hair and painfully submitted that it was.

I cried all night until I could barely see or breathe, everything just felt so empty. From the moment we received the call I knew we had to go and look after Mez.

We were told she was in a room with flowers either side of her and Mum said we had to go as soon as possible because she did not want to leave Meredith on her own. I cannot begin to imagine how my parents must have felt, I just know how numb I was and how Mum’s strength pulled us together.

We began our journey to identify her and bring her home. Arriving in Italy was surreal, everything happened so quickly. I still remember looking at Meredith lying there so still, no breath to be taken, a crisp white sheet pulled up to and over her neck.

She seemed peaceful, yet she bore a look of determination, of courage marred by defeat. It was a look that let us know how hard she had fought to be with us – and for that I am eternally grateful.

From that moment we knew we had to fight for her, too, not only for justice for her, but every day for ourselves, for her.

Others have given us the strength to continue since November 1, 2007 and we’d like to thank everyone around the world who has supported us and given us hope.

This is testament to a truly special sister, daughter and friend. She really did touch so many lives with her selfless compassion and loyalty, and continues to do so now.

Nothing was ever too much trouble for her. Mez never knew how effortlessly beautiful she was or how much of an impact she had on people. This was a quality of hers, which enabled her to make others laugh, help others when they needed someone, and become someone to aspire to.

She held such an incredible presence that the void she has left us with is noticeable every day. Marking the fourth anniversary of our loss, we now live without reason. No motive was found.

It is difficult to find any reason to want to hurt her and it terrifies me to think she may have left us that night not knowing either.

We still hope justice will prevail and, in the darkest times, the support given to Meredith and us as a family reminds us of why we are still here.

We are working with friends and colleagues to start a Trust Fund in Meredith’s name to help with the case and eventually support anyone else who may tragically find themselves in our position, so that her fight may continue and help others.

On November 1 at 9pm I will light a candle for my sister, may she rest in peace.

vendredi 28 octobre 2011

Io non capisco come si possa passare davanti ad un albero e non essere felici di vederlo.

mardi 25 octobre 2011

Violent times?

I happened to catch part of Steven Pinker's interview on KUOW yesterday. He was in town for a lecture on the history of violence. Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard and notable science writer, argues that the human species is less violent today than it has ever been. Not surprisingly, his point of departure is the Hobbesian view of man in the state of nature, as opposed to the more benign - some might say naive - view most famously put forth by Rousseau. For humans, life in the state of nature was, according to Hobbes, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". Whenever I think of that phrase, I always mentally add the word "thankfully" just before short: solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and thankfully short.

Pinker makes a forceful case (which you can read by clicking on the title above) for the civilizing effect of, well, civilization. If we think the world is more violent today, this is partly because violent incidents are blown out of proportion by the media, or so Pinker believes. He says we are basically fed a steady diet of gruesome news (perhaps because we ask for it?) and that, as a result, we have come to believe that we live in the worst of times when, in fact, compared with the past, we live in the best of times.

For many people, though, his panglossian thesis is counterintuitive, partly because, like it or not, we live in the present. And the present looks scary and violent, especially if you happen to live in America, where outlaws are not the only ones who have guns. Everyone seems to have them and be prepared to use them to enact vigilante justice as required. On my own facebook page, I happened to see a wall post praising gun ownership, which got many "likes" and elicited many comments, most of them of the "by the time the police arrive, I will have put any attacker away with my handgun" variety. Many of those posting were women. Go ahead, make my day! In the world they live in, danger is lurking around every corner and the best response is to shoot first and ask questions later if at all.

Get out yer knives

Has violence always been as random - everywhere and nowhere in particular - as it seems to be today? After listening to the well-spoken and mild-mannered Professor Pinker, I read an article in the Seattle Times about an unprovoked, girl-on-girls stabbing at Snohomish High School (north of Seattle) yesterday. A sophomore, described in today's paper as a "nice" and "quiet" girl, went after two freshmen girls with a butcher knife as they applied makeup and chatted before class in the restroom. One was in critical condition (today she is reported to be in serious condition, after six hours of surgery). She had been stabbed twice, once in the chest and once in the neck. Her friend was also stabbed, but was released from the hospital with no life-threatening injuries. Kids at the school told the Seattle Times that neither of the female victims is the type to get in fights or trouble. Another knife attack was carried out on October 11, 2011, by a young female perpetrator who chose her two female victims at random. One of the two died. The knife wielder apparently stole the knife used in one of the stabbings from a nearby butcher shop. This happened in England.

Are young women suddenly picking up knives and using them on their peers? Apparently, some girls carry knives as a matter of course or a fashion accessory these days.

vendredi 21 octobre 2011

The return of button; counting arroyos crows; the biz that keeps on giving

Now that the supertanker has pulled into port, the story about the creation of the narrative can finally begin to be told. We live in a world that needs an endless supply of stories. Just ask Scheherazade - whatever gets you through the night is all right.

Click on the title above and you will be taken to the Land of Marriott. In the land of Marriott, as Button notes, the media operates on the assumption that the American Public can't remember the day before yesterday. And in the business journal treatment of the Marriott PR Triumph (aka The Snow White Job), someone has forgotten that the script a month ago stated that there was no PR campaign and that anyone who believed there was one was nothing but a guilter and a hater. But now all that is swept aside so that Mr. Marriott, who looks like a cross between Colonel Sanders and a dumpling, can lumber up to the stage and accept kudos from one and all. After all, he was hired three days after Knox was arrested, for financial terms neither side will disclose.

Let's look at how the business journal spins the yarn:

Marriott was as important a player in [Knox's] ordeal as anyone in the courtroom. As Knox’s publicist, beginning three days after her arrest, Marriott worked to convince the international public that she did not murder her British roommate while studying in Perugia.

“Hiring him was one of the smartest things we ever did,” said Curt Knox, Amanda’s father.

The partnership between the Knox family and Marriott illustrates the potential of a public relations campaign to shift sentiment — and possibly even influence a verdict.

Like I said, if you have the right publicist, anything is possible! The right publicist can make water flow uphill and, once that has happened, can advise you on the best way to make the money you will need to pay for his services. That's the phase we're in now, folks. If you ever get in trouble, this is the guy you want working for you, feeding chicken shit to the masses and calling it chicken delight.

More from the Business Journal version of The Story:

Then, there’s the need for money. Curt Knox and Amanda’s mother, Edda Mellas — they are not married to each other — have each said they’ve drained their retirement funds, taken out second mortgages and accrued credit card debt to pay for Amanda’s defense. So, in this new phase, lucrative media deals will be a consideration.

At Marriott’s downtown Seattle office, he fields inquiries from book agents, screenwriters, news shows and movie studios. All want the Amanda Knox saga for their own. Some are offering big bucks. Marriott and the Knox family will be considering the offers, Marriott said — likely in a couple of weeks.

“There will be financial opportunities,” Marriott said. “I’ll be there to walk them through the opportunities.”

Vargas edits darkness out of the story where it suits her

If you have only watched morning television and the truly disgustingly bad mainstream network telling of the Marriott Fairy Tale, you will be excused for not realizing that Curt and Edda are no longer married to one another. They put on such a united front, and Elizabeth Vargas never once uttered the word "divorced" (focus groups show this does not resonate with viewers in a key demographic).

Ah, Elizabeth Vargas. Button has her number. Noting that ABC in particular had descended into "absolute Sleazeville" in its coverage, she makes a telling observation:

Did you happen to notice that Vargas tried to edit Meredith's mother entirely out of the press conference following the announcement of the verdict? As if she weren't even there. As if she didn't even exist.

Crow counting

The most interesting news item of the week was provided by a local blogger called batgurrl on her Crows of Arroyos* blog. Seems she was out counting crows and ran into the paparazzi assigned the task of hanging out and getting "candid" (LOL) photos of Knox in hiding.

Then on my way home I see the same two cars parked in the same spot. As I walked by one of the guys was out talking to the other again. I said “Whatcha up to?” even though I had it pretty much figured out. They proceeded to tell me they were making a living. I teased them they were “Professional Stalkers” and they teased me back that I was a “Crow Stalker”. While I was watching them they were watching me earlier. Guess it is pretty boring sitting in a car waiting & waiting.

Next they said they had given the family their cards and were invited to a BBQ last night over there. One of the guys started showing me his photos and said he had made over 200k on them. OMG no wonder they sit in cold cars for hours but it was like they were justifying their being. And did they really get invited into the house? One has to wonder.

Incidentally, some native American tribes - and the Irish - believe that crows symbolize the souls of the dead.

* The Arroyos is a fairly ritzy neighborhood (Marine View Drive) with spectacular waterfront views and properties, which unfortunately is located next to the dicey area called White Center, but referred to, not altogether unfondly, as Rat City.

mercredi 19 octobre 2011

I Occupy Wall Street, Mentally

Who me?
I'm with Lemony Snicket. (Click on title or read below or both - I recommend both.)

Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance

1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

2. “Fortune” is a word for having a lot of money and for having a lot of luck, but that does not mean the word has two definitions.

3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.

4. People who say money doesn’t matter are like people who say cake doesn’t matter—it’s probably because they’ve already had a few slices.

5. There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.

6. Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.

7. Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don’t tell them they aren’t. Sit with them and have a drink.

8. Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else—a stranger in the street, for example.

9. People gathering in the streets feeling wronged tend to be loud, as it is difficult to make oneself heard on the other side of an impressive edifice.

10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.

11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.

12. If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.

13. 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance, easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely an arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.

lundi 17 octobre 2011

samedi 15 octobre 2011

Power to the people

Unfettered capitalism sucks. Enlightened self-interest is a myth.

mardi 11 octobre 2011

Some humans ain't human

Late last week, a photo of Meredith Kercher's temporary grave surfaced on the internet in connection with a related story on the family and its hardships. It did not take long for certain depraved souls (do the depraved have souls?) calling themselves Amanda Knox supporters to begin making a series of mocking, heartless tweets. Several people who were distressed by these tweets sent them to me. You don't want to see them, you really don't. Apparently, Daniel Sandford of the BBC saw them, and saw as well that they had not escaped the notice of the Kerchers. He has tweeted his indignation on their behalf.

Daniel Sandford #meredithkercher family complaining that some #amandaknox supporters are mocking her grave on Twitter
Il y a 7 heures via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Thank you, Daniel Sandford.
And to the twits calling themselves supporters of Amanda Knox, this is what you are mocking. Human grief. Immense suffering. Irreparable loss.

dimanche 9 octobre 2011

More fallout from the Knox/Sollecito acquittal on appeal

Click on the title for a link to the most recent opinion piece by Wendy Murphy, entitled Celebrity overshadows facts in Knox acquittal. Wendy Murphy is a leading victims rights advocate and nationally recognized television legal analyst. She is an adjunct professor at New England Law in Boston. She writes an occasional column for Tina Brown's Daily Beast.

The Seattle Times has wisely contracted with freelancer Andrea Vogt, who provides welcome details of the political and diplomatic back story of the rather controversial acquittal, as well as a transcript of Hellmann's remarks to the press in Italian, with a translation. It is almost unheard of for a judge to talk to the press, in particular prior to having written and released the motivation report, which explains the verdict.

jeudi 6 octobre 2011

America's angelic OJ

Guest post by Ilana Mercer, lifted shamelessly from a website I do not agree with politically. But she gets it right, facts and all.

A must read. Possibly the best thing written on the vicious murder of Meredith Kercher to date.
Posted: October 06, 2011

© 2011
The conviction of America's sweetart du jour, Amanda Knox, was overturned this month. Based on O.J.-like evidence, Knox was convicted of murdering her British roommate. The vicious and depraved Nov. 1, 2007, killing took place in the historic, university city of Perugia, Italy. Police bungling notwithstanding, the biological and circumstantial evidence stacked against Knox and her former lover, Raffaele Sollecito, was considerable.

Ann Coulter offered up a few tart tweets about Knox's exoneration:

•Amanda Knox not guilty, Casey Anthony rolls eyes, says; 'we'll, duh…'"
•"Amanda Knox begins search for real killer."
The once-convicted killers were declared innocent, no less, and released, due in no small part to a PR blitz mounted by Knox's family and their Seattle-based publicist. They were assisted by the country's national media, left and right. With the exception of Bill O'Reilly, former homicide prosecutor Kimberly Guilfoyle and Jeanine Pirro, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CBS, ABC – all worked tirelessly on behalf of the attractive, white kids. The conviction of Rudy Guede the American media let stand. Guede, the pretty pair's (alleged) partner in crime, is a black man who lacked their appeal and assets.

Nor did Megyn Kelly, Shepard Smith, Wolf Blitzer, Piers Morgan, Dr. Drew, Oprah (on and on) give the time of day to the victim's family. In defense of our homegrown popularizers and poor thinkers, however, the Kercher family was way too classy to partake in the circus created by the ugly Americans and their aides.

In Italy, as a commentator pointed out, everyone is under investigation, including the prime minister. In the U.S., too few jurists and politicians are investigated and jailed. The American media have no issue with the Patriot Act. They are not in the habit of calling for arrests pursuant to the wiretapping of Americans without a search warrant. Laughably, the same lot has accused Knox's Italian prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, of unspeakable corruption: Mignini will serve time for … ordering illegal wiretapping in the case of a serial killer (the "Monster of Florence").

Answer this, Megyn Kelly: Has Mignini exceeded the corruption quotient of King County Superior Court Judge Mike Heavey? This Washington state justice abused his office (my state, my taxes) to petition members of the Italian judiciary on behalf of Knox, in violation of Washington state's code of judicial conduct.

Besides the famously contested Kercher and Knox DNA found on the knife at Sollecito's apartment, the victim and the alleged perpetrator's blood comingled elsewhere in the house they shared.

In the bedroom of another roommate, Filomena Romanelli, for example.

Ms. Romanelli's room was the scene of a staged burglary. Why staged? Glass shards were found scattered atop Romanelli's ransacked belongings, rather than beneath the items. The break-in was reported by Team Knox and Sollecito. Well before Romanelli had returned to verify his say-so, Solecito told police that nothing was missing. When the police arrived on the scene, Knox and Sollecito kept them away from Meredith's locked door with a ruse: Their friend, they promised, was in the habit of locking her door. A lie. When roommate Romanelli returned, she demanded that the locked door be broken down, claiming the exact opposite.

More mixed blood was found in the bathroom the women shared. As Daily Beast correspondent Barbie Latza Nadeau reported, unflinchingly, "Luminol which detects prints left in blood, bleach, and certain acidic juices" helped uncover a Knox footprint on the bathmat, which Knox excused by saying she took a shower right after noticing blood on the mat. American broadcasters failed to divulge too that there were ample partial fingerprints at the scene of the crime, which could have been smeared during the cover-up.

Nadeau, who is the author of the book "Angel Face," reported that "countless forensic experts, including those who performed the autopsies on Kercher's body, [had] testified that more than one person killed [Meredith] based on the size and location of her injuries and the fact that she didn't fight back – no hair or skin was found under her fingernails."

Rafaelle Sollecito was unable to corroborate Knox's alibi on the night of the murder. She had claimed she was with him and that they "cooked dinner, watched a movie, smoked pot, and had sex." Conversely, Sollecito said he had been downloading cartoons from his personal computer at the time of the murder. But according to Nadeau, computer experts were able to confirm that there was no activity on his PC during those hours. In eerie synchronicity, Sollecito and Knox had switched off their cell phones during the night of the murder. Despite claiming to have slept in, the cells were turned on early the next morning.

On Nov. 5, 2007, after cartwheeling and canoodling with Sollecito at the police station, Knox framed Patrick Lumumba for Meredith's murder and rape, which she claimed to have overheard. (At that stage, only the cops knew Ms. Kercher had been sexually assaulted.) Lumumba was Amanda's innocent employer. Knox even committed this evidentiary concoction to writing in a five-page memorandum. Later she blamed police for making her. Amanda's allergy to the truth cost Lumumba – another black man who remained voiceless in the American media – his livelihood and reputation.

"[W]e live in an age of violence with no motive," said Amanda Knox's besmirched prosecutor, alluding to the subterranean irrational forces that so often propel evil. Particularly well-placed to take the measure of Amanda was David Jones of the British Mail Online. For his exposé, the poor man had read Amanda's 80-page prison diary in its entirety. Jones had also consulted a professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, a top expert on sociopathic killers. The reporter described this "privileged 20-year-old daughter of a Seattle department store executive" as "vulgar and vain to the point of narcissism," as "pathetically self-pitying," a creature who regarded herself "as a cruelly wronged Shakespearean heroine."

Her own words revealed Knox to be disturbingly self- and sex obsessed.

Meredith's British girlfriends testified that their dead friend disapproved of the American girl's slovenly, slatternly behavior: Amanda was not in the habit of flushing the toilet, liked to entertain strange men in the home and to display sex toys and condoms in the bathroom. Tolerance for people who crossed her was not in Knox's nature.

Comprehending circumstantial evidence demands analytical and deductive thinking. These faculties are becoming rare in the Age of the Idiot now upon us, as was glaringly apparent in the deliberations of Casey Anthony's jurors. The average individual seldom reads; he knows only what is palpable and perceivable – what he can see and feel. If he can't picture something – see it happen on YouTube or on CSI – he certainly cannot think about it in the abstract.

Circumstantial evidence cannot be grappled with absent an ability to think in the abstract.

"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" was the jingle that captured the "legal" argument that undergirded the O.J. Simpson case, one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in the annals of American justice. Adapted to Amanda Knox – whose case was determined in the U.S., not in Italy – it goes as follows: "If it wasn't uploaded on YouTube, you must acquit."

Sign o' the times

Zesto's doesn't just taste bad; it has bad taste.

Not to be outdone, Italian tabloid OGGI serves up Knox's "liberation" on the front page and a set of knives as its merchandising tie-in.

mercredi 5 octobre 2011

A tribute to Meredith that everyone can honor

I just got this email from a friend of the Kerchers. Please take a minute to update your facebook profile for a few days.

From: XXXX
Sent: mercoledì 5 ottobre 2011 22:54
Subject: Mez photo: hoping to go viral

Hi there,

I'm a family friend of the Kerchers, and was wondering if you could help out in a tribute that Stephanie wishes to pay to her sister? Mez's sister Steph is hoping for the attached photo and below facebook status to go viral, to redress the media balance a bit. Grateful if you could post it onto the PMF blog/facebook profile etc.

Many thanks for your help! And take good care,


Hi everyone, if you would like to show your support for Steph's tribute idea for her beautiful sister, please update your profile pic with this photo of Meredith Kercher x

Here's the photo:

Mez's sister Stephanie: looking for peace, looking for answers

You can read reactions to the verdict, the homecoming, the coverage of same and what the nattering class with merchandise to sell has to say all over the internet. You can go global or stay local. Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times covered the arrival and media event at Seatac factually and correctly. He noted that there was a handful of supporters and a ton of media (see my post from last night).

Meanwhile, the likes of Donald Trump and crime maven and former prosecutor Nancy Grace, a passionate defender of victims on her nightly true crime show, have weighed in. King of Crass Trump says Knox could be a big star. Grace was not so grossly callous and beside the point. She said:

"I was very disturbed, because I think it is a huge miscarriage of justice," Grace told Access Hollywood after Monday's Dancing With the Stars show.

"I believe that while Amanda Knox did not wield the knife herself, I think that she was there, with her boyfriend, and that he did the deed, and that she egged him on. That's what I think happened," Nancy declared.

When asked if she would be interviewing Knox, Grace said no, adding that her show does not do paid interviews and that she thought Knox would not tell the truth anyway. So what's the point, she asked. Good question, Nancy.

mardi 4 octobre 2011

The morning after: Kercher family press conference

I'll be updating later today with a summary of the Kercher family press conference in Perugia this morning.

In the meantime, Meredith's father John Kercher had this reaction to yesterday's news:

While Amanda Knox’s family wept with joy after seeing their daughter’s murder conviction overturned, the father of the victim was incensed. Speaking from the family’s home in Surrey, England, John Kercher called the judge’s decision to free Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito “ludicrous,” saying last night’s drama had made a “mockery” of the original trial. “I thought the judge might play it safe and uphold the conviction but reduce the sentence,” he said. “But this result is crazy.

You can read it at the Mirror.

Both Andrea Vogt (The First Post) and Barbie Nadeau (The Daily Beast/Newsweek) sat down with Arline, Stephanie and Lyle for a face-to-face interview. Their own words are far more eloquent and gracious than anything I could ever produce. Sympathy for them is building, slowly but surely. Lots of discontent online over a verdict that appears incomprehensible to many informed observers, for reasons that Maundy Gregory has clearly explained.

UPDATE, SEATTLE: The Knox Entourage has landed.

There was a brief press event at the airport. It can't really be called a press conference, since there were no questions. First up, David Marriott, who masterminded the PR campaign that set Knox free and has destroyed any hope of closure for the Kerchers for some time to come. He gave the order of appearances and said Knox would not take any questions, "as is her right". Then Ted Simon, the Philadelphia lawyer and specialist in extradition, walked up to the podium and shouted rhetorically for a few minutes, signifying nothing. He was followed by the parents, briefly, and then Knox.

It may have lasted ten minutes. I watched it via a live stream. At one point,the reporter apparently did not know he was being live-streamed. He went ON AND ON about needing "crowd cheering" for the 6:30 newscast and how "We got DICK! We may need to dub something in."

Then "It's your wife's birhday, what the hell are you doing here?"

And the feed just went dead...

I don't know if it was the same guy who interviewed two fellow passengers on the flight. Having little to say, since Knox and Co disappeared right away, leaving the media to make chit chat, he decided to talk a bit about how not everyone thinks Knox is innocent. The camera panned to a discarded tabloid, the headline of which said something like Foxy Knoxy Now Free to Make Fortune. He opened it, to a two-page spread with a huge headline that said something like Our Meredith is Forgotten.

Oops! Cut to the chopper, quick! Yes, that's right, a KIRO chopper followed the motorcade as it made its way down the Burien freeway. Did I not mention the police escort. I suppose they all got rock star parking too!

I got a FB message today from my niece, a student at the University of Washington. This is a sad day for Seattle, she wrote. In their brief statement, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas asked the media for some privacy and space. But I guess the media, having gotten used to covering the coverage of the family, wasn't listening. Because they followed the chopper that followed the police escort that led the family to an undisclosed location that turned out to be Curt's house and called out to Curt for an interview. Well, he couldn't say no. They really wanted to talk to Amanda and one had the temerity to ask for her, but he was ignored.

I wonder if the crowd cheers got dubbed into the 6:30 newscast. And I also wonder why the television media wonders why fewer and fewer people believe much of what it has to say.

lundi 3 octobre 2011

Meredith's mom, brother and sister show grace under incredible pressure


It's now official. Judge Hellmann has overturned the earlier court's guilty verdict on all counts except defamation. This is a real blow to the Kerchers, even though this verdict is not final until Italy's highest court rules. The silver lining is that Knox was sentenced to three years for defamation, less time served. So she will be severely limited in terms of seeking compensation for wrongful conviction. The Kerchers have asked for an hour to compose themselves before giving a press conference. The people of Perugia are up in amrs over this latest verdict, shouting "Vergogna" (Shame!) after it was announced, and "give her to us, we know what to do with her". As Sollecito's rock star attorney Bongiorno spoke to the BBC, people in the crowd were yelling about the remembering the real victim, Meredith Kercher.

As Knox was led out of the courtroom, she looked totally distressed, more like someone who has just heard their conviction upheld. There is a photo on the cover of one of the regional newspapers that captures this look exactly as I saw it.


After this morning's courtroom finale, which I watched via live streaming, the judges and jurors retired to finish deliberations. Judge Hellmann's parting words were that this is not a football game. He mentioned Meredith by name and also noted that two others awaited their fate. He asked people to refrain from shouting, and to listen to the verdict in silence when it is delivered.

Arline, Stephanie and Lyle Kercher will be in court for the verdict, but decided to skip this morning's final pleas by Knox's attorney and then the two on trial. Knox's attorney did not have a good outing: lots of shouting, little substance. Raffaele seemed lost and unfocused, talked about how they took his shoes away at the Questura. He said he had never been asked to speak in the first trial - a very disingenuous statement - and that he had never said Knox left his apartment that night. This is not true, but he was not under oath. Knox was theatrical, emotional, and clearly anxious to come home. She skipped the damning details, did not mention the man she falsely accused nor apologize for it. Some are reporting that her speech was a success, whatever that means. She was pleading for her freedom.

In a surprise move, the three Kerchers in Perugia gave a press conference. They were amazingly poised under difficult circumstances. Journalists were allowed to ask a total of nine questions, 3 from Italian, 3 from British and 3 from other countries. Most tried to ask 2-part questions, which made things difficult for the Kerchers. There were too many questions about Knox, when what the Kerchers wanted to do was talk about Meredith.

I was asked to give my reaction after the verdict, but I have already thought about it and put my thoughts in writing. They don't depend on what verdict is reached by this court. Here they are:

In the event that guilt is affirmed:

I am not particularly surprised that the conviction was upheld. The amount and the force of the evidence against Knox (and Sollecito) are substantial. If people are surprised by this verdict, it is probably because most of the evidence went largely unreported in the US by all major news outlets. What this suggests to me is that hiring a PR firm is a poor substitute for seeking the best possible legal counsel in the country where the trial is actually occurring. The campaign may have won some hearts and minds in the US and perhaps even in Britain, but it did so to the detriment of the victim, Meredith Kercher, and even perhaps of Knox herself.

In the event of acquittal:

This verdict is contrary to what every other judge who has been asked to assess the same evidence has concluded. And I cannot make my own assessment of its merits until Hellmann issues his motivations. Prior to that, it would just be idle speculation. I will say, however, that this latest verdict will not be final until Italy's highest court reviews the case in the second and final appeal, which is automatic in Italy.

In any case:

Today, my thoughts are with and for the family of Meredith Kercher. This family has remained mostly silent and did not publicly celebrate the earlier conviction of Knox and Sollecito in December of 2009, although they said they were satisfied and convinced that justice had been done.
Recently, Meredith's mother and sister reiterated this position in a rare interview. But they also said they had no choice but to accept an adverse ruling. The many, many people in Seattle and around the world who share their view feel exactly the same way. And we plan to continue to support them through the final appeal, holding quiet vigil for Meredith Kercher in our hearts.
Personally, I regret that the Kercher family was dragged into a media circus not of their making, which, sadly, seemed designed to erase their beloved Meredith. For me, and for others, this is a second death for Meredith.

dimanche 2 octobre 2011

A tribute to Meredith Kercher

By my friend Macport:

Like many people from around the world, my thoughts and hopes are with the Kercher family tonight. May justice prevail for Meredith Kercher.

samedi 1 octobre 2011

Radell Smith speaks out for Meredith Kercher

Thanks for the plain talk, Radell. For your plain talk, a certain minor advocacy journalist has branded you a "hater" on twitter. You are in pretty fine company.

vendredi 30 septembre 2011

Finally! The Seattle Times Leads with Meredith Kercher

Meredith Kercher as a child

Media circus, media circus, did someone say media circus?

With the PR-fueled media circus in full swing and hysteria in Perugia as the appeals court ruling nears, the Kercher family is finally getting a smidgen of attention in Knox's hometown.

In spite of what some members of the local media apparently believe, not all of Seattle has drunk the "innocent abroad" koolaid or been lulled by the "railroad job from hell" narrative.

The Kerchers are expected to be on-hand Monday when Knox and Sollecito give it their all, just before the jury retires to complete final deliberations. The system is different in Italy. The jury of six "lay judges" is assisted by two professional judges, including the judge who has presided over the trial. Jury selection is not done with the participation of the prosecution and the defense, and the criteria for serving are much more stringent. The jury is not sequestered and deliberations are ongoing as the trial advances. Accordingly, presiding judge Hellmann expects the verdict to be announced on Monday. The Kerchers will be in court to hear it read.

They are very private, very discreet and very respectful people, the Kerchers. If the jury and judges had seen their faces in the courtroom day in and day out for ten months -- as would be the case in America -- and not just the faces of the "revamped" Knox and Sollecito and their families, who knows what impact this might have had? We will never know.

But what we do know is that the unprecedented and costly PR-driven media circus they are being thrust into Monday was not of their making. The current atmosphere in Perugia has been described as gaudy and decadent; US media bigwigs have pretty much taken over the town, following the Knox/Mellas entourage everywhere. It is all tightly scripted, just one interview after another. Friendly journalists get to hang with the Fam and Friends at the Brufani, Perugia's swankiest hotel.

Here's what I think about all this: Amanda's family and supporters have apparently not thought about the repurcussions of their actions for other people. I am thinking in particular about the Kercher family. They have tried very hard to keep the media out of it and let justice function without all these distractions. Without consulting them or even thinking of them, the Marriott driven Knox/Mellas show has come to town in a really big way, forcing everyone in its wake to be part of the spectacle. I suppose the Knox/Mellas show will blame their producer, Marriott, who needs to be paid for all the work he has done to manipulate the media, obscure the truth and blow to smithereens any hope of dignity for any of the parties involved.
Meanwhile, the Knox/Mellas show has become enamored of itself and its capacity to capture the spotlight.
The Kerchers did not ask for this and are not benefiting from it. They do not deserve to be subjected to this kind of spectacle. I wish them courage and strength and want them to know that they have many friends in Seattle.

mercredi 28 septembre 2011

Postcards from the edge of the Amanda Knox circus: private jet standing by; loony supporter sent back to the hotel

Moore Righteous Than Ever: G-man and Celestial at home

Just when you thought it could not get Moore Nutty

The first appeal trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollicito, both convicted by a unaminous verdict in December 2009 for their role in the brutal slaying of Meredith Kercher, Knox's British roommate, is winding down this week.

I have already mentioned the Puget Sound Business Journal article on the Knox clan's lunch date with Matt Lauer in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, at Morton's. NBC's Lauer reportedly flew in, jumped into a limo and was whisked to Morton's. Someone got that article "disappeared" within a couple of days. That's what you pay your PR people for!

Unfortunately, a couple of news items since then seem to have escaped the swift hand of the Magician, but for how long?

Yesterday, Italian daily Il Messaggero fell out of favor by publishing a piece on the private jet that is alleged to have been loaned by some generous (and apparently wealthy) Friends of Amanda, ready to whisk Knox and her entourage of about twenty out of Italy if she is acquitted. The presiding judge in this appeal announced yesterday that the court would be ready to hand down its verdict on Saturday, after Knox gives the "spontaneous" declaration her father Curt Knox said yesterday she had been working on for three months. I guess spontenaity, like nostalgia, just ain't what it used to be.

I wonder if the Moores, Steve and Michelle Celestial Easterly, will be among the revelers on the private jet, if indeed there is one. I am waiting for an official denial.... So who are the Moores, you may be wondering? According to his bio, he is a retired FBI agent. According to his babbly wife, he is a trained sniper. She posts this all over the internet, especially when she wants to scare people after she has offended them. Moore is one of many who have used this case to insert themselves into the spotlight and make a career change. Moore was some kind of security advisor at Pepperdine, but now has a seriously nutty blog and gets invited once in awhile to ramble about the Knox case on television. If his hosts have noticed that he is inarticulate to the point of incoherence, they have not let on so far. Anyway, Moore had the excellent idea of turning up in Perugia for the remainder of the trial and the even more excellent idea of bringing Michelle along with him. At least it seemed excellent until Michelle sidled over to one of the prosecutors, the much maligned and demonized Mignini, and shouted at him, telling him he was evil and other stuff like that. The only thing she forgot was to brandish her homemade Mignini voodoo doll -- the one with all the pins stuck in around the vital organs. In Italy, as in America, that sort of thing can get you charged with contempt of court. Michelle was immediately removed from the scene, asked to provide her passport and then detained for about an hour. Within hours, she was back on the internet telling her side, mostly to other Knox supporters, most of whom seemed embarrassed. Nick Pisa reported on the incident, which the US media has mostly chosen to ignore. Methinks this is because they are all doing whatever the Knox/Mellas people tell them to do and these people realize how bad Michelle makes them all look. Just sayin'.

I'll have more anecdotes from the Lunatic Fringe post-verdict. Coming up: the fur salesman, the twittering twit, the hater hater and more.

If anyone is interested, Steve Moore keeps a blog. He seems to have something against me, but I can't quite make out what it is, since it is couched in biblical language and talk about baby rattles and stuff. Weird shit.

Michelle blogs too, but sporadically. Good luck making sense of her posts. She apparently suffers from some kind of rational disconnect between thought and speech/writing. Or maybe not, which is an even more frightening thought.

vendredi 23 septembre 2011

Remembering Meredith Kercher

This one's for you, Meredith

Today, as the appeal winds down, the prosecution began its closing arguments. You can read all about what was said today at abc's website and elsewhere, or wait until journalists Andrea Vogt and Barbie Nadeau file their stories for the Seattle PI and the Daily Beast, respectively. They have been consistently reliable and objective.

And Meredith's discreet family have come forward for an interview, to remind the public that this is not all about Amanda Knox in spite of what media coverage suggests. They have asked us to remember that this is about Meredith, or Mez as she was known to family and friends. In his wrap-up, Mignini too asked the jurors to remember Meredith in spite of the unprecedented attempt on the part of an aggressive PR campaign with media complicity to erase her. Her first death was brutal and cruel beyond belief. This second death, the act of erasure, is no less obscene. It's just that no one hears the sound it makes.

According to one court observer's tweet, Mignini said in summation that never in his 32 years of experience has he heard of networks buying tickets for defendants in exchange for interviews. The Knox/Mellas family has always denied this. But I have been told by people close to the case that the bidding war for the exclusive interview has been ongoing.... And we all know how the media works by now, right? As I noted in an earlier post, the Puget Sound Business journal reported on Matt Lauer of NBC's recent quick trip to Seattle (limousine waiting at the airport, lunch at Morton's with Curt Knox and others, a big fat porterhouse steak). Strangely, that article has since been yanked. Never underestimate the power of their PR man Marriott!

Below, Stephanie carrying a white rose at the memorial service for Meredith

Meredith was known affectionately as Mez

Stephanie and Arline during a recent and rare interview

mercredi 21 septembre 2011

Getting away with murder?

John and Arline Kercher, Meredith's parents, and Stephanie, her sister, at a press conference in Perugia.

In this intelligent and well-written piece (click on title for direct link), Andrea Vogt wonders aloud how Italians would react to an acquittal of the Seattle woman who was convicted in December 2009 of taking part in the killing of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. She notes that an acquittal would be cause for celebration in Seattle. It would certainly be cause for celebration among those who have taken up the cause and believe in Knox's innocence despite the compelling evidence of her involvement in this horrific crime. But the fact is, most people in Seattle are simply not that interested. And among those who are, the consensus is certainly not that an innocent abroad got railroaded.

If it seems so, it's because the local media has dutifully followed the lead of the national media and adopted the "innocent abroad" narrative concocted by David Marriott, whose PR firm was hired to manage Knox's image shortly after she was arrested. In Seattle, Meredith's murder has been played as a human interest story in which only the local protagonists matter. Meredith was British; it is assumed that Seattleites could not possibly give a toss about her. Hence, local coverage has favored news of fundraisers for the accused local woman and then for the convicted local woman. Questions from local journalists to her supporters (family) have ranged from "How is she holding up in prison?" to "How is she holding up in prison?" And since there is no guilter movement, local or otherwise, except in the minds of a few shrill locals, there has been no local coverage of the movement's "activities". How can a non-existent movement have activities?

I have met many people in West Seattle who quietly shake their heads in disbelief at Steve Shay's coverage for the West Seattle Herald. Yesterday, someone who works at a local business said "you're skeptical bystander" when she handed me back my credit card. She told me she was a long-time lurker who reads and TJMK every day for information about the case. There are many people like her in Seattle.

I found it amusing, though sad, to read the comments that follow Andrea Vogt's thoughtful piece for the First Post. Naturally, loud vocal supporter "Mary H" (this is her online pseudonym, and hiding behind it may be one reason she is so loud on the internet) was quick to condemn Vogt for merely pointing out the obvious. Mary H (fake name) asked Andrea Vogt (real name) how she could sleep at night! It ain't that hard, Mary, when you have the courage of your convictions and when you stand by the facts rather than getting sidetracked by the cause.

The fact at hand is that many people -- in Seattle, in Italy, and elsewhere -- would come away from an eventual acquittal with the feeling that justice had not been done for Meredith Kercher and her family and that at least two of those responsible for her death had gotten away with it. Mary H and others may not like to hear this, but it is a fact. And no amount of shaming on the part of Mary H or anyone else is going to make a bit of difference.

Yesterday, a lawyer friend and I were musing about what would have happened had this case been tried in the US. Many Knox supporters have said, repeatedly, that it would never have gone to trial here. My lawyer friend agreed, but for a different reason than the one implicit in this view (i.e. that there is supposedly no evidence). He said "I don't think the case would have gone to trial in the US. First, they would not have had to stop questioning her when they did. They would have artfully gotten her to waive her Miranda rights. They would have told her they can't help her unless tells her side of the story, been very sympathetic initially and built up her confidence that she could talk her way out of it. They would eventually hone in on the inconsistencies, and when she finally cracked there wouldn't be a lawyer there to stop her. The death penalty would have been on the table, and her only sure way to avoid that would be to plead guilty in exchange for life." He also thinks that this would not have been such a high-profile case had it happened in Seattle.

Let's wait and see how this court weighs the two contested items in the overall scheme of things. As a poster on PMF (another lawyer) wrote last night, it all boils down to this: How many pieces of evidence... 'consistent with, but not conclusive of' guilt can stack up against someone before, as a matter of common sense, it is no longer reasonable to believe they are innocent?

Meredith's sister Stephanie will be in Perugia on the day the verdict is announced.

Meredith's mother, Arline.

lundi 12 septembre 2011

Will Knox Walk?

I get asked that question a lot lately by friends and acquaintances who know that I have been hosting a discussion board devoted to this case for nearly four years now. Today's PI (click on title), having decided to dispense with the illusion of taste and decency, is currently running a poll that asks the burning question: Should Amanda Knox Return to Seattle?

For those who don't know, Knox and her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were unamimously convicted in December 2009 for their role in the torture and murder of Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher, and for their subsequent attempt to cover up their involvement by staging a burglary in the flat Knox and Kercher shared with two Italian women. In addition, Knox was convicted of calunnia for falsely accusing her boss, Patrick Lumumba, of the murder. Lumumba spent two weeks in jail after police arrested him based on Knox's accusation, during which time Knox did not admit that she had falsely accused an innocent man. A third young man, Rudy Guede, was also convicted for his role in this gruesome murder. He opted for a fast track trial, which is not the same as entering a guilty plea and, having exhausted his appeals, is now quietly serving out his sentence.

Knox and Sollecito are nearing the end of their first appeal. Which brings me to a point worth considering for a moment: in Italy, there are two rounds of appeal and they are automatic. Knox did not "appeal" her sentence; she and Sollecito merely moved on to the next phase in the criminal justice process. Incidentally, the prosecutors could also be said to be "appealing" the initial verdict, since they asked for life and the pair got "only" 26 and 25 years, respectively. Knox got extra time because of the calunnia.

In Italy, as in the US, convictions are sometimes overturned on appeal, so my answer to the question is that it is possible Knox will walk, or get a reduced sentence, but she would still have to face the final appeal. This has always been a possible outcome, in the same way that it was possible she would be acquitted by the first instance court. It would not be the first time that someone demonstrably guilty of a crime went free. The two examples that immediately spring to mind are OJ and Casey Anthony. The Casey Anthony verdict shocked many people, including me. I managed to obtain a copy of the judge's instructions to the jury, which gave me a better sense of how this could have happened. The judge should probably have instructed the jury with regard to the legal definition of reasonable doubt and the legal definition of circumstantial evidence. He apparently thought they already knew these rather basic things. But from what I have read and seen since the verdict was announced, the jury clearly did not have a clue. And now Casey Anthony is walking free but imprisoned for life -- because she has to live with the knowledge of what she did. As a very smart man once said to me, the sweetest prison is prison. Think about it.

It is impossible to predict with certainty how this court will rule, though last week the US media seemed to think it could do so based on the judge's denial of the prosecution's motion requesting that further retesting be done on the two items of forensic evidence for which he had earlier granted an independent review (two out of over 100). If you are interested in this complex subject, there is only one blog to read: Maundy Gregory's blog

In a nutshell, the two experts did not retest the items as requested but instead raised concerns about the admissibility of DNA evidence per se, the possibility of contamination, etc. At one point, one of them gave an in-court presentation using selected snippets from the crime scene video, claiming that a pair of latex gloves seen on-screen holding a pair of tweezers while removing evidence from the victim's body had a tear in it. People, I have seen the entire crime scene video (which is horrifying, you don't ever want to see it) and there is no tear in the glove. There are creases, which is normal. You can see a still shot of it on PMF (link below).

Those who have been following the case professionally, objectively and dispassionately are not prognosticating an outcome. As they have noted, however, it has been established that the DNA on the blade of the knife (Knox's DNA is on the handle) is undeniably Meredith Kercher's. The knife was found at Knox's boyfriend's flat, a place Meredith had never visited. As for the bra clasp (which was cut from Meredith's body after she died, as part of the staged rape), which has Sollecito's DNA on it, the court may decide the possibility of contamination is great enough that it should be given less weight or no weight at all in the court's decision. What is important, however, is that neither item has been "thrown out". And then there is the rest of the evidence. In addition to the crime scene staging, we have a bloody footprint which is compatible with Sollecito's bare foot and which was found on the bathmat. There are several samples of mixed DNA (Knox-Kercher). There are cellphone and computer records. There are shifting alibis and lies told by the pair. All of this evidence will be examined holistically, not in isolation, by the judges. Last but not least, let's not forget elements from Rudy Guede's trial, which are now admissible. In his final appeal, Italy's highest court of appeals ruled that this crime had been committed by more than one person. All hope of continuing to pin it on the Lone Wolf/black guy alone has thus vanished. Moreover, the nature of the physical evidence is such that only the truly deluded ever thought otherwise.

I have also been asked if I am worried for my personal safety if Knox is acquitted, though just as many have asked if I am similarly worried about what will happen if this court confirms the earlier conviction. Which is another way of saying I probably can't win for losing. There is a small but rather shrill and slightly deranged group of people, knoxophiles if you will, who have decided that I am a convenient target for all of their frustration with the process and hatred for people whose focus is on the victim, Meredith Kercher, and/or who have looked at the evidence and come to the conclusion that Knox is guilty. The few journalists who have covered this case objectively have also been targeted for abuse, threats and defamation, part of a nebulous online war being waged in the shadows. Meanwhile, the sunny façade of the supertanker is being advanced by the PR firm Knox's parents hired early on and by the FOA (Friends of Amanda). The latter group's executive committee is comprised of Mike Heavey, a Seattle judge; Anne Bremner, a Seattle lawyer; and Tom Wright, a minor Hollywood director turned producer who lives in Seattle. Heavey and Wright both have daughters who attended Seattle Prep with Knox.

I have received threatening emails (and one online death threat) from people who are completely wrapped up in this cause. Some of the faithful have been recruited online via the facebook cause page. I suspect they are being paid for their efforts. I don't know who posted the death threat; it was anonymous, as such things tend to be. I have also received unwanted emails from Knox/Mellas family members, including one from an aunt who told me that "they" know where I live and have done drive-bys. I responded with the simple request that "they" drive by slowly because my neighbors complain about all the folks who use our little street as a short cut to the West Seattle Bridge.

More recently, one of the FOA foot soldiers showed up uninvited at a memorial service for someone in my extended family, and had the poor taste to try and engage one of my grieving siblings in a discussion about me and the discussion board I moderate, PMF.

In the parlance of our times, that's messed up. Don't you think?

Really, the only thing about which I have no doubt is that the Italian criminal justice system is simply trying to do its job despite a lot of noise and intimidatingly bad coverage, by the US media in particular, whose jackals are so hungry for an exclusive with the currently imprisoned Knox that they will do or say anything to curry favor. It was reported last week that NBC's Matt Lauer recently arrived in Seattle, jumped into a waiting limo at Sea-Tac and raced downtown for lunch at Morton's with a select group of top-level supporters. It seems that Matt and Curt Knox, Amanda's father, split the huge and pricey porterhouse. I'm sure it was well done.

UPDATE: I appreciate all of the comments I have received since I posted this, in particular those from people who live in West Seattle and White Center. Here is one that I found particularly touching and telling:

"First time that I've heard Meredith Kercher mentioned as the victim. Now that I think about it, I would know Amanda Knox on sight, but have no idea what Meredith looked like. Sad."

In fact, this comment prompted me to add the photo below of Meredith Kercher, a lovely young woman whose life was taken from her in November of 2007. Three people were convicted of this heinous crime. One has exhausted his appeals; the other two are nearing the end of their first automatic appeal.

Photo below: The family of murder victim Meredith Kercher. Some of Knox's more extreme anonymous online groupies have actually suggested that the Kerchers are somehow to blame; others have urged them to get over their grief and help free Knox. FWIW, the Kercher family is satisfied with the first instance verdict and believes that justice was done. It is truly awful when a family's dignified silence is used against it.

dimanche 11 septembre 2011

My Drunk Kitchen

I know I haven't been the most consistent and regular blogger this past summer (past year? two years? whatever), but hey, summer is a magical time where you pack in all the fun and slothfulness you can, while you can. Especially if you live in a place where the sun don't shine all the time.

This little thing here is simply hilarious. Who doesn't get into the sauce while cooking? On television sitcoms and dramas, one person cooking and one observing and conversing usually equals one bottle of wine, easily. You'd think that two bottles of wine for two people on a given evening was the norm if all you did was watch people cook in the land of television fiction. On the rare occasion that I have surpassed half a bottle for my lonesome self, headache, hangover and unquenchable thirst have resulted. This gal's name is Hannah Hart. Yay for you, Hannah.

samedi 10 septembre 2011

Paradise, John Prine

The summer ends kind of like it began, with an open-air concert at Château Ste. Michelle. Last night's show was opened by Ani di Franco, which we didn't realize until afterwards. Her name wasn't on the ticket. She was awesome. I hate to say it, but I sort of missed her rise to fame. Let's say it was because I was living in France at the time. That's what I say whenever I learn of a cultural phenomenon known to every American but me.

About John Prine, what can I say that hasn't already been said. As Ani DiFranco noted, John Prine fans come to hear him because they like well-told stories. Every John Prine song is a true story, I'm sure of it. He ranks right up there with Leonard Cohen, which is odd because they are so different in so many ways.

Prine (and his two fine musicians) was so captivating I forgot about the two drunk Asian women sitting next to me, who spent the entire time gabbing and shrieking. One of them looked exactly like Imelda Marcos. Shoes and all. Walt politely asked them to shut it, but this only made them chatter with greater intensity. Finally, she traded places with her friend's husband, such that we were next to the two husbands, who obviously were Prine fans. Why the hell did they drag Imelda and her pal to the concert? Imelda's friend's husband had the annoying habit of reciting (not singing) each line of lyrics after it was sung by Prine. But we got so wrapped up in the music we just ignored him and his echolalia.

For his encore, Prine did Paradise, a song that many people associate with John Denver. It was really sweet the way the crowd spontaneously went up to the stage and sang the chorus along with him. We were right up there too, about a foot away from the guy. We said thank you to him and he said you're welcome.

Oh, and he also did another of his great songs, which he wrote for Bonnie Raitt. Here's Bonnie's version. As one of the youtube commenters said: if you don't fall in love with her just a little then you are soulless and evil.

Ani DiFranco is also a great songwriter. Her best line, as far as I know: "If you're not getting happier as you're getting older then you're fuckin' up".

She ended with a revamped version of Which Side Are You On? When I find a version that has decent sound quality, I'll post it.

jeudi 1 septembre 2011

Nina Burleigh: view from a broad who doesn't seem to like broads or being abroad

In Burleigh’s shoddy book on the murder of Meredith Kercher, she gets the victim’s birthday wrong. But that’s not all she gets wrong. From what I can tell, Burleigh simply skips over much of the key evidence in favor of gossiping about and criticizing other journalists who have covered the case. She is particularly hard on female journalists, which is odd given that she prides herself on being a modern feminist. I find it very telling, for example, that she indicates what Barbie Nadeau and Andrea Vogt's husbands do for a living (one works for the UN and one is a university professor), but does not see fit to provide us with any information on what the wives of any of the male journalists do. The implication is clear: these two “females” took up writing as a sort of hobby after trailing behind their menfolk to Europe. Worse, Burleigh notes that though they are both American born, they are more European in "style" and "craft" which, aside from being absolute nonsense, remains unsubstantiated by any analysis whatsoever. It amounts to saying “they’re sooooo European”. What does that mean? Well, once you know that Burleigh is a relentless and mindless cheerleader for the superiority of all things American, it becomes clear that what she means is that they are inferior journalists because all things European are inferior to all things American. Burleigh also claims that what she calls Nadeau's “cosmopolitan speech affect” is an attempt to hide her Middle American roots (in Burleigh’s words, her “rural South Dakota accent”). She says the "statuesque redhead" Vogt looks like she could play the role of Brenda Starr. In other words, Burleigh is trying to suggest that these two are imposters, merely playing at journalism by dressing up like a cartoon journalist or putting on airs and trying to talk like a big city slicker instead of a sharecropper. In fact, Vogt has been a working reporter for fifteen years, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in journalism, is trilingual and has published in English, German and Italian. I don't know much about Nadeau’s academic training, but she currently writes on a variety of topics for both Newsweek and the Daily Beast. And the excellent Christopher Dickey thinks quite highly of her.

Meanwhile, back to Burleigh and her seemingly endless supply of sour grapes. At one point in her book, she mentions an Italian female reporter, but only to comment on her boots! One starts to wonder what she has against women, especially her professional peers.

Her male peers do not get a free pass, either, at least those who work in that dreadful country Italy where, according to Burleigh, freedom of speech does not exist. She criticizes foreign journalists based in Italy, basically calling them a bunch of cowards, so fearful of the Mafia that they confine themselves to writing about la dolce vita -- food, wine and bunga bunga. This is absolute bollocks, of course. John Follain, who has covered the case for the Times, has written two books about Italy in the fifteen or so years he has lived there: one is about the Mafia, while the other takes on the Vatican. Vogt investigated the White Supremacy movement in Idaho and has written an excellent book about it, not without exposing herself to danger. As for Nadeau, she has covered Italy’s garbage crisis, and in one gritty, unforgettable article for Newsweek describes walking through some of the most dangerous Mafia neighborhoods. All three have been viciously attacked by Knox supporters. Meanwhile, Nina Burleigh is happy to fixate on what her fellow journalists are wearing and eating and drinking. Come to think of it, when she was a correspondent in France, she was obsessed with complaining about and criticizing French women, probably for not instantly recognizing her innate superiority.

It is too bad Burleigh opted to focus on this kind of crap instead of actually discussing much of the real evidence against Knox and Sollecito. Frankly, hers is the most disappointing and surely the nastiest book on the tragic murder of Meredith Kercher that has been published to date. After reading what Burleigh wrote about Nadeau and Vogt, I was left wondering why she has such an ax to grind with them. Is it because they are at least a decade younger than she is? Is it because they live in Europe and she doesn't? Is it because they are fluent in foreign languages and she isn’t? I really don't know, but the book sure has a bitter stench to it.

The good news is I didn't even have to buy it. In fact, I don't want to be seen reading it in public. Thanks to Google books, I was able to find many of the offending passages on line. In addition, I can discreetly skim at my local bookseller’s. All in all, I have found it a pretty dull exercise. The book is glib, superficial and gossipy. One walks away feeling dirty and sad, wondering where one would be placed within Burleigh's social and class hierarchy. Hopefully at least a hair above middle class.

I almost forgot to mention the pièce de résistance in Burleigh’s sliming of the two female journalists who did not roll over for the Knox family PR supertanker. Burleigh also asserts that these two small-town American imposters, after acquiring their polished "style" and "craft" by living in Europe, were "appalled" by the way AK and her family "flouted" Italian mores, implying that this snobbery tainted their reporting. While I recall both journalists providing good analysis of how and why some of the antics of AK and her family were not good strategy under the circumstances – for example, AK’s decision to turn up in court one day wearing an over-sized “all you need is love” t-shirt or her sister Deanna’s choice of courtroom attire on July 4 (red-white-and-blue hotpants outfit) – I have never read anything suggesting they personally disapproved of or were appalled by the American and her family. Since this snide and non-sourced aside appears on the same page as Burleigh’s claim that Nadeau tried to hide her "rural" accent with a "cosmopolitan speech affect", it is fair to say that Burleigh’s real goal is to discredit them as objective reporters. It is almost as if she - Burleigh - were taking dictation from Doug Preston! And if Burleigh finds this to be a sexist remark, then I suggest she take a long, hard look in the mirror.

In the same section of the book, Burleigh describes John Kercher as a tabloid reporter and notes that neither he nor his family even "attempted" to learn Italian, relying instead on their lawyer to tell them what was going on.

Yes, you read that right: Burleigh thinks that the grieving Kercher family should have set aside their grief and contacted Berlitz straight away! And she implies that it is a mistake to rely on their legal counsel for information or advice. (At least Italy gives the victim’s family a legal voice.) I guess Burleigh would prefer that the Kercher family turn to people like Amanda’s stepfather Chris Mellas, or the various profiteers riding the PR supertanker: David Marriott and Doug Preston to name just two. This is apparently what Burleigh did.

It is clear from what I have read that Burleigh is not concerned with the victim Meredith Kercher or her family. She seems more interested in passing judgement on those she considers inferior in station to herself (just about everyone),complaining about life in Italy and taking pot shots at other journalists. My guess is that deep down she likes Italy about as much as she liked France, which is to say not much, maybe not at all. Burleigh is that quintessential Ugly American. I saw early signs of it in her reporting on this case for Time. Incidentally, she did not begin until June of 2009, when the trial was well under way and almost two years after the murder itself. I had never heard of Burleigh, so I decided to have a look at her earlier work, especially that on life in France. I truly was flabbergasted by her utter inability to cope in a strange land. She took an instant dislike to the French in general and was unable to understand the culture, in part because she was unable or unwilling to learn the language. I find it ironic – and appalling – that she faults the Kerchers, of all people, for not learning the language of the country where their daughter/sister was murdered when she herself could or would not learn the language of the country she was residing in under happy circumstances.

Is it class or gender or nationality that Burleigh most has a problem with?

Hard to say, since she seems to have a sense of superiority that encompasses all three. Speaking of disapproval, Burleigh treats the Knox women and Meredith's British friends in the same haughty, catty manner as she treats her professional peers. In fact, she refers to the Knox clan collectively as "a hair on the low side of middle class". I guess from the throne upon which she has placed herself, Burleigh is able to make these fine distinctions and, in addition, finds it necessary. And how about this fine value judgement on page 33? "Amanda was the sole member of the gaggle of menstruating, jealous, bitchy, angry, loving, needy females around Curt who could keep her emotions in check". I'm not making this up; Burleigh actually wrote those words. One pictures hapless Curt surrounded by the seven dwarves (Jealous, Bitchy, Angry, Loving, Needy, Bloody and Amanda). While I believe that Amanda Knox was rightly convicted for her role in Meredith Kercher's death, and though I have been critical of her family's decision to hire a PR firm that has attempted to manipulate public opinion, I certainly think they are entitled to a little more respect and empathy than this. Speaking of entitled, that is how Burleigh herself comes off throughout this book.

Moving on to Meredith's British friends, Burleigh dismisses them en masse with this tightly packed bundle of sexism and stereotyping: "tweedy peaches-and-cream complected sylphs who moved as a pack". How Burleigh would even know how they moved is beyond me, since she was not covering the case in the days or even months that followed this brutal murder. Perhaps, if they did stick together, it was for mutual comfort. That's what the little people do, Nina.

Italian women are not spared either. In addition to her fixation on a local reporter's boots (perhaps because she could not read her work?), Burleigh describes Police Chief Monica Napoleoni's style as "part dominatrix, part donatella Versace with a badge" and another Italian policewoman as a "thick-bodied woman". Nina's motto: When in Rome and unable to follow what's going on, focus instead on making disparaging comments about the way other women look.

Burleigh pretentiously dedicates her book to the victims of sexual violence, an odd choice since she does little more here than perpetuate the sexist and sexual stereotypes that underlie this phenomenon. I am all for supporting the victims of sexual violence and will do so by not buying Burleigh's nasty piece of work, which adds nothing to our knowledge of the case anyway.

Anyone who really wants to read a good book on the murder of Meredith Kercher should try Darkness Descending and/or Angel Face, both out for some time now. In addition to these works, John Follain, who has lived in Italy since the mid-90’s and covered the case from the outset, has a book coming out soon. I seriously doubt he will be focusing on women's boots.