Sunday, March 26, 2006

Some More Of That Stuff Called Freedom, Please

When the USSR went out of business back in the ‘90s, countries scrambled around to find a way to exercise their new-found nationhood. The Baltic states took to representative forms of government right off. Russia has been willy-nilly, but it looks like it’s headed back to authoritarian rule. Belarus, Ukraina, and the Stans became make-no-bones about it dictatorships.

That’s been changing. First off the Ukraine had its Orange Revolution – bloodless for the most part. Then, for some inexplicable reason, the dictator of Kyrgyzstan was overthrown while he was on a state visit to Moscow. The supposed ignition point, according my Muscovite pen pal, was outrage at President’s decree to remove bill boards advertising an alcohol recovery program. That’s two for the self determination column.

The dictatorship that stayed a dictatorship is Uzbekistan. Unruly crowds there were subjected to immediate and sustained gunfire early on which more or less nipped the freedom movement in the bud.

This past week has seen unrest in Belarus. The CIA online World Fact Book along with the Wikipedia make interesting reading. It’s a reasonably flat country which makes it ideal maneuvering terrain for cavalry and armor. It gets itself invaded every century or so, leaving behind a rich mixture of language and culture. The Tartars have been there, along with the Varangians, the Poles, the Finns, the French, the Russians, and let us not forget the Germans. So far they haven’t had a Comanche raid, but the millennium is young yet.

The point of contention in Minsk is the recently rigged national election which proclaimed the current government flawless. Aleksandr Lukashenko has been running the place for the past dozen or so years and is doing his Commie best to run it into the ground.

How it turns out depends on a handful of Army officers. If they side with the current regime nothing changes. If they can’t find it in their collective hearts to shoot or order the shooting of civilians, there will be some changes made.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Farce Goes On . . . and on . . . and . . . on

The penalty phase of the Zacarias Moussaoui trial has had new revelations. It seems that Carla Martin, the TSA lawyer whose actions in witness tampering very nearly had the case thrown out, was doing so at the behest of lawyers for United Airlines and American Airlines.

To obtain a death penalty for Moussaoui, the government needs to show that his lying to the Feds immediately after his arrest and before 9/11 kept them from issuing warnings to the airlines to keep sharp items off the aircraft.

By proving heightened security would have prevented the deaths of several thousand people and thus sending Moussaoui to the death chamber, it will basically prove that United and American were lax in their duties to protect their passengers. The two are locked in litigation by lawsuits of survivors of the people killed that day.

There seems to be a teeter-totter effect here. If the government proves its case for the execution of Moussaoui, the airlines defense that nothing could have been done to prevent the tragedy is gutted and the claims settlements will be horrific, basically forcing both companies to liquidate assets to pay them off.

That effectively would be the end of the number 1 and number 3 airlines in the US. United employs about 61,000 people but I could not find the figures for the larger American. With the prospects of over a hundred thousand suddenly unemployed on this administration's watch hanging in the balance, someone put a bee in Ms. Martin’s bonnet to do what she could to save the airline’s case.

Since this whole sick plot is being strung out, I would imagine that wood is now being gathered to burn her at the stake to prevent her from naming just who might be the person who talked her into risking her job and her right to practice law.

Let me say this about that. This is a tawdry case marked by improprieties but it is nowhere near as much fun as the OJ trial. Where is Lance Ito when we need him?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Would You Guys Please Get Your Story Straight?

I saw an interesting article on Yahoo News just now. San Diego State’s Cox Arena, which will host part of the NCAA Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament, had its opening delayed when a bomb dog “hit” on something.

Reuters reported the pooch to be interested in a hot dog cart (Is there any surprise there?) while other news services claim the dog went for a small package or attaché case. All a false alarm, bye the bye.

This heightened level of paranoia was brought on by a vague FBI warning of the possibility of suicide bombers at sporting events. Bomb sniffers will be very much in demand as both the NHL and the NBA as well as the NCAA have games scheduled this month and baseball season opens April 1.

Don’t you just love it how the Fed is looking after us citizens? It is also wonderful when news stories don’t jibe. At least all accounts agree on city, facility, and date. Makes me proud to be an American, it does.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dey Be Pickin’ Dem Nits

The farce continues in Alexandria, Virginia, where the penalty phase of Zacarias Moussaoui is being played out.

Government lawyers proposed replacing the six tainted witnesses, who were well coached by Transportation Safety Attorney Carla Martin despite Judge Leoni Brinkema’s instruction to the contrary, with other witnesses. Supposedly the new witnesses were not coached by Ms. Martin. That raises the question as to just who did coach them. We’ll probably never know.

Let’s face it; the government blew its own case, and it is hard to believe that it was not intentional. They have to be seen as doing the RIGHT THING, or what is perceived to be the right thing. The right thing in this case is demanding the maximum penalty about as self righteously as they can manage.

I for one will not be disappointed or surprised at a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. If that be the case, we won’t have to feed him for very long. A death penalty will see him living for at least another ten or fifteen years on death row where he will become a living martyr and rallying point for more militant Moslem mischief. Better all around that he catch a shank between the second and third ribs within the next few months, which is pretty much guaranteed in any general prison population in the country.

Whacked out justice, American style. That’s what we get for letting lawyers serve in congress or run the courts.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Oh, The Suspense Of It All

The next installment of the Zacarias Moussaoui penalty phase is out. The good judge is going to allow the Feds to go ahead with their case. (Lawyers do get paid whether they win or no.)

She did however disallow testimony from the proposed witnesses who had been compromised by government lawyers, basically eviscerating any effort to have the him executed.

In order to put a good face on their “blundering”, the government lawyers are appealing the judge’s order, which will delay the trial until next Monday. That will give the prosecution time to think up some other new ploy to get the case thrown out while pretending to go for the jugular.

I don’t think there is a jury in the US that would not send him to the death chamber, but if that were to be the case, you could figure a minimum of 15 years of three meals a day in a private cell with television and all the books he wants to read. If the government “loses”, he will be dead within a year; the victim of some “patriotic” convict looking to make a reputation for himself.

There was once a time when a person convicted of an odious crime would be swiftly dispatched to reflect on his miserable ways in the after life. To get rid of such a miscreant these days, we only need toss him or her into the general population of a maximum security prison and let events take their inevitable course.

American jurisprudence does leave a lot to be desired, does it not?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Through The Looking Glass Alá DOJ

A blatant attempt by government lawyers to spike the testimony in the Zacarias Moussaoui penalty phase trial has led to a furious Judge Leonie Brinkema halting the trial. Out of hearing of the jury, she excoriated the prosecution, which led to the defense asking for the dismissal of the death penalty option.

Moussaoui has been convicted on 6 charges stemming from the 9/11 attacks. In any society with fewer lawyers he would already be worm food.

Lawyers, as you know, get paid to argue, and as all judges at the Federal District Court and above are also lawyers, almost every ruling requires more, not less, litigation. In death penalty cases, the lawyers argue on for a minimum of ten years and some convicted killers have sat on death row for almost three decades.

A death penalty leads to a reasonably comfortable and safe existence until all the appeals have run their course. Just recently here in California the execution of Michael Morales was put on indefinite hold at the order of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It seems it is unconstitutional to cause pain while putting a convicted killer to death. The state is having a problem finding an anesthesiologist who will put the poor baby to sleep before he is given the lethal injection.

Morales’ situation is truly wonderful example of picking the fly specks out of the pepper. The 17 year old girl he raped and bludgeoned to death in 1981 would be old enough to be a grandmother, and yet her condemned killer is excused from his trip to the after life because execution might cause him pain. Tsk. Tsk.

The Feds, I think, are finally getting hip to this scenario. Their options are to either get a death penalty which means a comfortable and secure life for decades to come, or to plumber the case which will lead to 6 terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Moussaoui, who is responsible in part for the deaths of over three thousand of our countrymen will not last long in any general prison population in the country. It’s too bad the prosecutors who successfully argued for the death penalty for Richard Allen Davis, the rapist-murderer of twelve year old Polly Klaas, hadn’t stumbled on to the way to relieve the taxpayer of housing and feeding him for ages.

What in the world ever happened to right and wrong?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Saving The Golden Gooney

Navy, Air Force, and Marine veterans of WWII and the Cold War will recall tales of Midway and Johnston Islands. Actually both are atolls; Johnston is located to the south west of Hawaii, and Midway is located to the northwest.

There was a hell of a fight in June, 1942, at Midway when combined Navy, Marine, and Army Air Corps aviation turned back and defeated an aircraft carrier-led invasion attempt by the Imperial Japanese Navy. After that, the war moved west.

Both Johnston and Midway became Naval communication posts and remained in that role until satellite and undersea fiber optic communications evolved making troposcatter radio obsolete in the early seventies. The facilities were closed, the men sent home, and the administration turned over to DOD and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The islands are now closed to visitors.

Both atolls are barren sand dunes with scraggly vegetation, little or no fresh water, and precious little diversion for the men who were stationed there. One could get in lots of aquatic sports or observe the local avian population the most of which are Laysan albatross. They are incredibly dumb birds, therefore the name “Gooney Bird.” They were a real menace to air operations from the islands. Many a jet engine was destroyed when oblivious birds flew into air intakes.

Bored service men amused themselves at the expense of the hapless birds. I once read a tale about a couple of radiomen who sneaked a light bulb into a lady gooney’s nest. When the bird returned to the nest to incubate her eggs, she never noticed the new addition. Once she settled onto her clutch, the sailors turned on the juice, lighting the bulb and scorching her bottom. As soon as she jumped up squawking, they would turn it off. She strutted around for a few minutes before returning to her matronly duty, whereupon the pranksters turned on the juice again.

The goonies are so dumb, you just have to love them. The venerable Douglas C-47/R4D was officially named “Skytrain” by the US or “Dakota” by the British. So much for officialdom, the venerable planes are known by one and all as Gooney Birds.

The birds have no sense of fear and are easy prey to predators. Consequently, otherwise unpopulated desert islands are the only place where they can survive. The Laysan albatross thrives at Midway and Johnston. On the other hand, the short tailed albatross, or Golden Gooney, became a source of decorative plumage. They currently face extinction as some 2,000 or so are all that are thought to still exist.

The nesting grounds for the Golden Gooney are on islands claimed by Japan, which has recently decided to do what it can to save the species. To that end, the US has given Japanese researchers 10 Laysan chicks from Midway so that methods of species restoration may be studied.

64 years ago, the Japanese Empire and the United States were locked into all out war with Midway being a strategic bone of contention. Had the Japanese been successful, the atoll would have served as a staging point for Imperial forces to threaten Hawaii and the west coast. It was a fight of desperation for Americans who were woefully outclassed for the most part. Our only superiority was in signals intelligence. That tipped the balance, and the IJN suffered a devastating defeat.

Now that the islands have returned to the timelessness of sea and sun, the Japanese have come again for a less sinister purpose. Better all around, it would seem.

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