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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 8/6/20


Another Thursday and more from friends…



From my long-time friend, Mark DiMaria, a thoughtful perspective on criminality and incarceration:

Before moving to the more populated and thus civilized L.A. metropolis in my freshman year of high school, I grew up in much less urban (if not outright rural) areas of upstate New York, where as a kid I was exposed to everything and everyone in that more unfiltered and undomesticated world. Those years made many strong impressions on a very sensitive kid, with respect to human nature. I learned pretty early on that, among other things, one's qualities as a person had nothing at all to do with whatever ethnic, economic, or religious group one's family happened to hail from, and that every individual was a world unto, and saw the rest of the world from the perspective of, him or her own self, as the protagonist in their reality. For that reason, I am a great believer in rehabilitation, evolution of character, and empathy for those who are caught up in the criminal justice system because they came from an unenlightening environment, got caught up in a bad peer group, didn't think through what they were doing, or were just stupid. We have all done regrettable things, and that visceral experience of coming to understand and regret them is how we develop empathy and wisdom.

On the other hand, I also learned that there is a significant percentage of individuals who are sociopaths, if not psychopaths, and whose most fundamental source of pleasure is domination over, and infliction of terror and pain upon, others. I cannot tell you how much energy I devoted in my childhood to surviving these few intrinsic monsters, even as kids. While I do not believe in the death penalty for a long list of reasons, I also believe that it is paramount to meeting the most basic needs of ordinary people, that these truly evil individuals, once they have manifested their maleficence through their crimes against others, be removed and kept from society -- incarcerated. For that reason, I am a fan in theory of properly-formulated and applied three strikes laws, limited to multiple convictions for physically or psychologically violent crimes, because they would tend to separate the organically evil from the foolish or unfortunate.



This following is excerpted from an opinion piece written by Lt. Col Alexander Vindman (Ret.), who has served on the National Security Council, among other positions in a long career of national service. No additional commentary is required…

After 21 years, six months and 10 days of active military service, I am now a civilian. I made the difficult decision to retire because a campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation by President Trump and his allies forever limited the progression of my military career.

This experience has been painful, but I am not alone in this ignominious fate. The circumstances of my departure might have been more public, yet they are little different from those of dozens of other lifelong public servants who have left this administration with their integrity intact but their careers irreparably harmed.

A year ago, having served the nation in uniform in positions of critical importance, I was on the cusp of a career-topping promotion to colonel. A year ago, unknown to me, my concerns over the president’s conduct and the president’s efforts to undermine the very foundations of our democracy were precipitating tremors that would ultimately shake loose the facade of good governance and publicly expose the corruption of the Trump administration.

At no point in my career or life have I felt our nation’s values under greater threat and in more peril than at this moment. Our national government during the past few years has been more reminiscent of the authoritarian regime my family fled more than 40 years ago than the country I have devoted my life to serving.

Our citizens are being subjected to the same kinds of attacks tyrants launch against their critics and political opponents. Those who choose loyalty to American values and allegiance to the Constitution over devotion to a mendacious president and his enablers are punished. The president recklessly downplayed the threat of the pandemic even as it swept through our country. The economic collapse that followed highlighted the growing income disparities in our society. Millions are grieving the loss of loved ones and many more have lost their livelihoods while the president publicly bemoans his approval ratings.

In retirement from the Army, I will continue to defend my nation. I will demand accountability of our leadership and call for leaders of moral courage and public servants of integrity. I will speak about the attacks on our national security. I will advocate for policies and strategies that will keep our nation safe and strong against internal and external threats. I will promote public service and exalt the contribution that service brings to all areas of society.

To this day, despite everything that has happened, I continue to believe in the American Dream. I believe that in America, right matters. I want to help ensure that right matters for all Americans.



Eric Swenson provides some perspective on movie choices and their categorization:

Not really a bone to pick with you but a perspective from an English major. Within my major at UOP, I primarily studied aesthetics of film, literature and art. I realized there is a difference between a “classic” and something that is “great”.

Great” means undeniably a great piece of art (or movie or writing) that continues to be respected and held in high regard by most people throughout the generations.

Classic” is something that may not necessarily be great, but is intensely worth re-reading, re-watching or re-seeing. Each time I re-read a classic book, or re-watch a classic movie, I see new subtleties, learning new things, or gain a different perspective. Also by doing this throughout my life, I see that work from a different position in my own life.

So, some personal examples, crudely stated and off the top of my head:

Schindler’s List is a great movie by any measure (including mine). I will never be able to watch it again; too shattering for me. But it is an incredible piece of cinema.

Bugs Bunny – I laughed at these cartoons as a child. I laugh just as hard today. They succeed at every possible level and are completely re-watchable.

The other list I’ll need to make are those that I consider a classic AND everyone considers great. The only thing that immediately comes to mind is “Casablanca”.

Eric, we can agree that you—and your reasoning—are classic…and great…



David Lash adds Four Weddings and a Funeral to the list. I’d agree but thought having two Hugh Grant movies on the list were enough. But David’s right—there is no limit to the great Hugh Grant canon.

Alan Rosenbach suggests adding Adam’s Rib, covering rom-com and legal in a single movie…

Happy almost weekend,


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