Not So Different


Stop That Bus!  Avoid That Train!  Catch That Falling Child!

I decided if I walk outside and get hit by a bus, everybody'll say, "He crammed a load into 34 years."

- George Clooney

Florist Uses Car to Stop Out-of-Control Bus

A Berlin florist has stopped an out-of-control bus by allowing her car to be rammed.  Police say Gabriele Killic is a hero for driving in front of the bus, which was travelling at 45mph.  Driver Guenther Becker had collapsed at the wheel from a stroke, with his foot stuck against the accelerator pedal.  Gabriele, 35, decided she had to act as the bus headed towards a busy junction.  She placed her Nissan Almera in front of the bus and braked, waiting to be rammed.

"I saw it as the only way to slow it down," she said.  "I passed the bus and could see the driver slumped over the wheel.  I put the brakes on in front and just waited for the bus to hit me.  Then when it rammed into the back of me I kept the brakes on until the bus became slower and slower and finally stopped after almost half a kilometre."

Police say she prevented a disaster AND saved the life of 50-year-old Mr Becker.  A spokesman said: "Another minute without medical attention and he would have been dead.  His stroke was severe.  This bus was headed for one of the busiest intersections of the city at rush-hour in the evening.  Loss of life and multiple injuries would have been inevitable had Mrs Killic not acted as she did."

The bus driver is in serious condition in a Berlin clinic.  There were no passengers on his vehicle at the time of his collapse.  His wife, Elisabeth, said; "I cannot thank her enough - a selfless person who saved my husband's life."

Source: Ananova Thursday 1st November 2001

There was no mention of who would pay to repair Gabriele Killic's car.  Surely it will not be Ms Killic?

Man Is Rescued by Stranger on Subway Tracks

'd rather go by bus.

- Prince Charles

by Cara Buckley

It was every subway rider’s nightmare, times two.

Who has ridden along New York’s 656 miles of subway lines and not wondered: "What if I fell to the tracks as a train came in?  What would I do?"  And who has not thought: "What if someone else fell?  Would I jump to the rescue?"

Wesley Autrey, a 50-year-old construction worker and Navy veteran, faced both those questions in a flashing instant yesterday, and got his answers almost as quickly.  Mr Autrey was waiting for the downtown local at 137th Street and Broadway in Manhattan around 12:45pm.  He was taking his two daughters, Syshe, 4, and Shuqui, 6, home before work.  Nearby, a man collapsed, his body convulsing.  Mr Autrey and two women rushed to help, he said.  The man, Cameron Hollopeter, 20, managed to get up, but then stumbled to the platform edge and fell to the tracks, between the two rails.

The headlights of the No. 1 train appeared.  "I had to make a split decision," Mr Autrey said.  So he made one, and leapt.  Mr Autrey lay on Mr Hollopeter, his heart pounding, pressing him down in a space roughly a foot deep.  The train’s brakes screeched, but it could not stop in time.  Five cars rolled overhead before the train stopped, the cars passing a scant space above his head, smudging his blue knit cap with grease.  Mr Autrey heard onlookers’ screams.  "We’re okay down here," he yelled, "but I’ve got two daughters up there.  Let them know their father’s okay."  He heard cries of wonder, and applause.

Power was cut, and workers got them out.  Mr Hollopeter, a student at the New York Film Academy, was taken to St Luke’s - Roosevelt Hospital Center.  He had only bumps and bruises, said his grandfather, Jeff Friedman.  The police said it appeared that Mr Hollopeter had suffered a seizure.

Mr Autrey refused medical help, because, he said, nothing was wrong.  He did visit Mr Hollopeter in the hospital before heading to his night shift.  "I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help," Mr Autrey said.  "I did what I felt was right."

Source: 3 January 2007 photo credit Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

Heroes Catch Falling Tot in Bronx

by Daniel Massey

One minute, Julio Gonzalez and Pedro Nevarez were shooting the breeze, two mechanics talking about cars.  The next, they were New York City's latest heroes, catching a 3-year-old boy who plummeted from a 4th-floor fire escape in the Bronx after slipping past his baby-sitter.  The child, Timothy Addo, was shaken up in Thursday afternoon's incident in West Farms, but otherwise was unhurt.  His saviors, meanwhile, were amazed at the chain of events that played out in a matter of seconds as the friends - they're so close they consider themselves brothers - raced across the street to make the lifesaving catch.

"I heard people screaming," said Gonzalez, 43.  "When I looked up, I saw something dangling from the 4th floor.  At first I thought it was a joke.  But then I said, 'Oh God!  That's a baby!'"  Little Timothy had slipped out of a 5th-floor window and climbed one story down the fire escape, where he suddenly found himself hanging on for dear life.  "Look up!" Gonzalez remembers telling Nevarez, 40, as the duo sprinted across Daly Avenue.  "We're gonna catch him!"  The friends got there just in time.  Timothy lost his grip and fell toward the sidewalk.  Then the child hit a tree branch, which sent him tumbling.

Timothy's feet hit Nevarez, knocking him to the sidewalk and out of his shoes.  The boy next bounced toward Gonzalez and knocked him down, too.  But Gonzalez kept his hold on Timothy, cradling him against injury.  "I feel like we did something good today," Nevarez said.  "We were in the right place at the right time."

A crying Timothy was taken to St Barnabas Hospital for observation.  Doctors put a bandage on his head - he apparently got a cut when he struck the tree - but otherwise he was unhurt, police and witnesses said.

"Thank you!" Katrina Cosme, the child's mother, said after rushing from work to the hospital and then to the scene, where she hugged Gonzalez.  "Thank you."

Police said the baby-sitter, Carol Baldwin, 49, had opened the window in her 5th-floor apartment to smoke a cigarette.  She left the room for a moment to go to the bathroom, giving Timothy enough time to slip out the one window in the apartment that did not have a window guard, police and a neighbour said.  Authorities were questioning Baldwin last night at the 48th Precinct.  No decision had been made on whether she would face charges.  Those who know her said she does an exceptional job with the children.  "She's very responsible with these kids," said a neighbour, Migdalia Melendez, 43.  "The kids are very close to her.  They won't go with anyone else."

The dramatic rescue took place on the same day that Wesley Autrey, the subway superman, was lauded for his heroics by being awarded the Bronze Medallion, the city's highest civilian honour.  Autrey, 50, a construction worker, jumped onto the subway tracks in a Harlem station Tuesday and saved the life of Cameron Hollopeter, 20, who had had a seizure and fallen off the platform.  Autrey, who said he was just doing the right thing, covered Hollopeter's body with his own in the middle of the tracks as a No. 1 train ran over them.  They were safely tucked in a trough between the rails.

"This is a week of heroes," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

Newsday staff writer Rocco Parascandola contributed to this story.

Source: 5 January 2007

Rewarded by Virtue

Losing It

by Catherine Masters

A woman who left "enough money to buy a house" in a supermarket bag at an Albany cafe was lucky it was not thrown out with the rubbish.  Senior Sergeant Paul Bartle, of Takapuna police, said the woman yesterday provided proof the money was hers but seemed amazed it had been handed in.  He could not say how much was involved, although it was apparently enough to buy a house, and he would not say which country the woman came from, other than it was Asian.  "We've told her it's not a good idea to carry that amount of money around and I think she's got the message," he said.  She was "very pleased" to have it back but had not expected to see it again.  "She said in her own country she would not have seen it again," said Bartle.

The woman was the only person to have made a claim for the money, which was inside a paper bag inside a grocery bag.  "Unbelievable, isn't it?" said Bartle.

The money was handed in by a couple - "nice, decent people" - who had not wanted anything in return but were pleased the rightful owner had the money back.

Source: 28 December 2001

No Thanks for Honest Cabbie

A taxi driver who handed back the equivalent of two-and-a-half-year's wages to a pair of businessmen who left it in the back of his cab didn't even get a "thank you."  The driver in Focsani, Romania, found £2,500 and two passports after he dropped the men off for a business meeting.  He hung on to the money and waited for them to come to the taxi company he worked for.  But when they turned up they took the money without saying a word.

Marius Oancea, the owner of the taxi company, told the daily National: "They came to our headquarters to get their money and passports back and when they saw it was all there they were crying with relief.  But then they just walked off, without even a thank you, let alone any reward for the honesty of the driver.  I just wonder what the driver will do next time something like this happens - our company makes it clear it bears no responsibility for anything left behind in a taxi."

Source: Monday 10 January 2005

Finder of $6,000 Comes Forward

A Massey University student who handed in more than $6000 in lost cash thought the bag contained just a few hundred dollars.  The 22-year-old woman gave it to a staff member at Wellington Central Library on Wednesday after finding it on the floor.  Police returned it to a relieved elderly man who dropped it on his way to pay a bill.

The woman came forward yesterday afternoon after a friend read in Saturday's Dominion Post that police wanted to speak to her.  Senior Sergeant Kevin Riordan said though the cash was in a plastic envelope, she thought it contained a few hundred dollars.  "She had no idea of the amount of money she'd handed in, but when she found out it didn't bother her, she just said it wasn't her money and she was quite happy to return it."  Police are giving her details to the man.

Source: 20 July 2004

Man Hands in $100,000 Cash Find

The real measure of our wealth is how much we’d be worth if we lost all our money.

- John Henry Jowett

Cashed Up - Officers Sally Judkins and Brent Register count the money dropped from a security van.

More than $100,000 that fell out of a van yesterday dropped into the hands of an honest man - who had just lost his job.  The Christchurch man stopped to clear an obstacle from the middle of Tuam St about 9am and was astounded to find the package contained wads of $5, $10 and $20 banknotes.  He scooped up the parcel and drove straight to the nearest police station.

The money had fallen from a Crown Security van en route from the Reserve Bank to the Riccarton branch of the Bank of New Zealand.  Police already had staff and dogs out looking for the parcel.  Relieved security staff collected it and found only $20 missing, believed to have been blown away.

BNZ spokeswoman Sarah Hensley said the man's honest actions and modest attitude gave everyone a lift.  "We thought it was an amazing thing for him to do, especially given his circumstances," Ms Hensley said.  "These days we are cynical and do not expect the best from people.  He has renewed our faith in human nature.  "The fact he wanted no publicity has added another dimension.  He obviously has a great deal of honesty and integrity."

The bank said it would make a presentation to the man.  It is not known whether Crown Security intends to offer the man a reward. - NZPA

Source: The Evening Post Saturday 5 June 1999 photo credit Christchurch Press

There are a couple of things about the latter story that put me off.  The first is the comment that handing in the cash was amazing, "especially given his circumstances."  This seems to imply a certain justification for dishonesty in persons who have recently lost their jobs.

Money is not the only thing of value.  The man was not described as starving, or as down-and-out.  Losing one's job doesn't mean total failure and loss of all one's moral fibre.  The man had only just lost his job.  Already it would be more understandable if he kept the money?  What if he had a job, but it didn't pay him enough?  Would that also make it understandable for him to keep the money?  Everyone is below their yearning power.  What might make any of us be honest?

Money equates to power in the short- and medium-term.  Honour is a long-term reward which has value and even, in particular circumstances, a certain degree of power.  Why have personal standards?  Some seek Karma.  Others seek Flow.  Or the Holy Spirit.  Whatever.  The point is, the reward for honesty needs to come from within.  It needs to be, "I am a person who is honest so that I can trust myself."

The second comment I have is that the article seemed to me to project the notion that you might as well be honest - to do otherwise would be a crime.  This may be true, but the best incentive for honesty when no one is around isn't fear of future punishment.  (If it were, the death penalty would reduce murder rates, but that isn't the case.)

The article points out that the dogs were already on the case.  If the guy were on foot, walking to the station, might the dogs have overtaken him?  Would everyone believe him when he said he was on his way to the station?  What if his house was in the same direction?  What if he'd stopped at home to grab a coat?

I feel cynical here, I suppose, because of an experience I had a couple of years ago.  I called Visa to report that my balance had been erroneously credited by almost $3,000.  The money had been credited to my account for two or three weeks by the time I got my statement.  Knowing how banks work, I was surprised the error had gone undetected for so long.  I considered the possibility that they may never discover the error.  I considered it, but didn't matter - it was my responsibility to bring this error to their attention and I did.

I called customer service only to be told peremptorily that the amount had been removed that very morning.  She said THEY had discovered the error.  I felt she implied I had belatedly reported it only after learning it had been corrected (not remotely true).  At no time was I even thanked for calling.  I had felt righteous before calling and angry afterward.  That's when I realised that my "reward" should never be because I wanted strokes.  Or cash, or notoriety.  It has to be because honesty is consistent with my ordinary behaviour.

Honest acts are not always externally rewarded.  Neither are all dishonest acts externally addressed and made right.  (Internally, that's another matter...)

Not So Different

Source: Funny Times January 2001

Flawed Hero

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Law without Values: The Life, Work, and Legacy of Justice Holmes by A W Alschuler; University of Chicago Press

Oliver Wendell Holmes is an American icon, the very model of the crusty, wise old judge who also happens to be an intellectual giant.  Author of America's most cited law-review article, famous dissenter on the United States Supreme Court, champion of civil liberties and the founder of legal pragmatism, the prevailing philosophy in American law, Holmes is as close to a judicial god as any country should want.  The title of a popular biography, "Yankee from Olympus", captures the awe with which Holmes has been viewed by the legal fraternity as well as the public.

In a lively and entertaining attack, Albert Alschuler strips layer after layer from the traditional image of Holmes to reveal not a wise and compassionate liberal saint, but a heartless social Darwinist who believed in nothing but power.  According to Mr Alschuler, Holmes's reputation is largely the construction of much younger acolytes, the most prominent being Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, also leading Supreme Court justices.  Holmes's disciples flattered the grand old man shamelessly, trumpeted his famous dissents on the Supreme Court even while ignoring his less-than-liberal reasoning, and swallowed whole many of his ideas about the law while overlooking their incoherence or inadequacy.  By the time Holmes retired from the Supreme Court in 1932 at the age of 90, he had become an institution.

In dismantling the legend, Mr Alschuler actually paints the portrait of a far more interesting man.  The defining episode in Holmes's life, we are told, was his service as a unionist soldier in the American civil war.  During the war, he witnessed horrific carnage, lost friends and was himself seriously wounded three times.  Holmes began the war as an ardent abolitionist.  He ended it engulfed in existentialist despair, struggling to fill the emptiness with a Nietzschean worship of power.  Rejecting with scorn his own youthful idealism, he embraced a corrosive scepticism which dissolved any ethical or moral claims.

For Holmes, democracy was solely about the rule of the majority or, more accurately, those who could impose their will on others through the legislative process.  From this stemmed his support for judicial restraint, which is still held up as a model by both the left and right in American politics.  And the law, insisted Holmes, was not about right or wrong, or rational judgment, but a system of sanctions.  Perhaps his most famous contribution to legal lore is his argument that the law is best viewed from the point of view of the "bad man", who asks not what the law books say, or what reasons judges give in their rulings, but only what a specific court is likely to do to him if he is caught.

Mr Alschuler concedes that Holmes was a brilliant phrase-maker and that, mostly under the influence of Brandeis, he did write a few great legal opinions towards the end of his career.  However, he argues that Holmes's view of the law, although hopelessly reductionist, has nevertheless had a wide-ranging and largely negative influence on American law in the 20th century, too often stripping its study and practice of ethical content.  That is the real target of this important book.

Many will disagree sharply with Mr AIschuler's interpretation of Holmes, not least his colleagues at the University of Chicago Law School, home of the law-and-economics movement, where Mr Alschuler is a professor.   Judge Richard Posner, who also teaches there and is one of America's best-known legal scholars, has helped to deify Holmes.  Such critics will dismiss Mr Alschuler's citations from Holmes's letters as irrelevant to his judicial philosophy, though they will find it more difficult to ignore Holmes's many grossly illiberal judgments from the bench, which Mr Alschuler also cites.  In addition, his dissection of Holmes's legal scholarship is devastating.

In limited space, Mr Alschuler is less successful at sketching an alternative theory of the law.  His arguments will whet many readers' appetites more than persuade them.  Yet this fascinating book deserves a readership beyond the specialists who regularly engage in such controversies.  It is an intellectually dramatic introduction to how the law works, and why it matters.  And at its heart lies something more moving and more significant than any icon - a flawed and very human hero.

Source: The Economist 24th February 24th 2001

I think Mr Holmes looks exactly like what my husband Jeff will look like in about 15 years.  Maybe that's why I'm biased to look on him favourably.

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