Wednesday, November 26, 2003

A "monstrous failure of justice"

It was shocking to see terrorists flying jet airliners into the World Trade towers and the Pentagon two years ago. But almost as shocking to me has been some of the ways our leaders have responded to these attacks. At first we did what was necessary. We went into Afghanistan where we knew that Osama bin Laden was holed up. As an added bonus, we also got to knock the awful Taliban government out of power. Unfortunately, bin Laden escaped and rather than continuing our efforts to track him down President Bush has taken the country on a bloody wild goose chase looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Knocking out the Baathist regime in Iraq may have been a good goal, and it would have been another nice bonus like knocking out the Taliban, but this time there was no group of Al Queada leaders holed up in a cave somewhere. The people who perpetrated the 9-11 attacks are now busy blowing up synagogues in Turkey while we have our hands full fighting a guerrilla war in a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks in the first place.

But that is not the only shocking thing in post-9-11 U.S. behavior. The other shocking thing is the way we are dealing with the more than 600 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The other day we were taken to task by one of the top judges in Britain.

"The purpose of holding the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was and is to put them beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts and at the mercy of victors," he was quoted as saying."

A Pentagon spokeswoman quickly retorted. "These are people who intended to kill innocent civilians in our opinion," lawyer Ruth Wedgwood said.

But if we believe that, why don't we charge them with those crimes and give them the opportunity to defend themselves? Somehow I'm having a hard time believing that all 600-plus detainees at Guantanamo are dangerous Al Queada operatives. It is very possible that we inadvertently rounded up some people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In his speech Tuesday evening, Lord Steyn rejected the Bush administration's position urging the British government to unambiguously condemn the "lawlessness" of the detentions, Channel Four News reported.

"As a lawyer brought up to admire the ideals of American democracy and justice I would have to say that I regard this as a monstrous failure of justice," he said.

It looks like the Supreme Court may step in soon and perhaps will put the situation right again.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Top 500 Albums

Rolling Stone has come out with a list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
I love lists like this even though it is in many ways a pointless exercise meant only to sell more magazines. When I was in college Rolling Stone put out a list of the top 100 rock albums that greatly influenced by music buying habits at the time. I discovered lots of music I might not have discovered for some time as a result. That list, like this one, was heavily biased in favor of alternative and “punk” music. For example, they inexplicably ranked “Never Mind the Bollocks” by the Sex Pistols at No. 3. This time the Sex Pistols are down in the 40s somewhere, but really shouldn’t be on the list at all.

All in all, I count about 65 artists on the list that unquestionably belong there in my opinion. Another 25 I’m sure belong as well, though I am not as familiar with their work. And then there are about 40 artists whose inclusion I could go either way on.
But there are more than 100 artists on the list that I would jettison to make room for some glaring omissions.

I was surprised that they could find no room on their list for anything by Boston, Rush, Heart, John Mellencamp or Stevie Ray Vaughn. I would think most classic rock stations would have difficulty filling out an hours worth of music without these artists. They also left off Frampton Comes Alive.

Some other glaring omissions that would certainly appear on my own list include:
The Black Crowes; Hall & Oates; Jim Croce; Steppenwolf; The Doobie Brothers; J. Geils Band; Foreigner; Electric Light Orchestra; Bachman Turner Overdrive; Deep Purple; Loverboy; Genesis; Asia; Billy Squire; Rick Springfield; INXS; REO Speedwagon; The Bee Gees; The Wall Flowers and Stone Temple Pilots.

The list of 500 also presumes to include other genres such as country and jazz, but in so doing it falls far short of being comprehensive. For example, while they include works by Hank Williams; Johnny Cash; Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, they have nothing from George Strait; Alabama; Garth Brooks; Dwight Yoakum or John Denver. And I would add in The Dixie Chicks; Alison Krauss and Union Station; and Nickel Creek.

The omissions are even worse on the jazz side where they include works by Miles Davis; John Coltrane; Stan Getz and Ornette Coleman, but have nothing from Louie Armstrong; Bennie Goodman, Count Basie, Dizzie Gillespie or Duke Ellington.

And then probably the thing that ticks me off the most is that they include music by Frank Sinatra, but have nothing whatsoever by Bing Crosby! Outrageous!!

Eavesdropping in Mrs. Oswald's attic

The Express-News has an Op-Ed piece today by John Tackett, a reporter who was in the press pool in Dallas when Kennedy was killed 40 years ago.

Tackett has a rather strange and obsessive tale to tell.

He starts off by stating that he firmly believes the Warren Report's fictitious version of events and that he does not "engage in conspiracy arguments anymore." He then goes on to tell of his efforts to interview Lee Harvey Oswald's mother shortly after the assassination.

"After the assassination I went to Mrs. Oswald's house to interview her. I was turned away at the door by Secret Service agents. As I stepped off the porch at the dual residence, I decided to knock on the door to the left of Marguerite's.

A frightened widow and her trembling teenage daughter welcomed me in, even fed me supper. They were afraid someone might toss a bomb on Marguerite's porch or shoot through the windows. They liked having a man in the house. Although at my age, I passed for younger than a man.

I could hear Marguerite's shrill voice next door through the thin wall, but not as good if I could get closer somehow, without being seen. I asked the widow if she had an attic. She did, with an entrance through a trap door in the top of her closet. It opened up into an attic common to both sides of the duplex — no wall in between. I scrambled up, note paper and pencil in hand. On my belly, against the rafters, I was right above Marguerite and the agents."

As I was reading this, I was struck by the subhead to the story which read "Seedy characters surrounded Oswald". Wow, no kidding, I thought. And apparently some seedy characters that she didn't know about, too.

Tackett describes how he tried for the next several years to demonstrate that Mrs. Oswald was a bad mother and that she and her son Lee had a strained relationship - as if this would somehow prove that he killed Kennedy singlehandedly.

There is much about Lee Harvey Oswald's story that seems odd. Like the ease with which he was able to quit the Marine Corps and emigrate to Russia (using a mysterious source of income) during the height of the Cold War. And then turn around just as abruptly and return to the U.S. with a Russian wife in tow. Was he part of an ongoing effort at the time to infiltrate the Soviet Union with double agents? Did Oswald think he was still acting under orders to infiltrate Soviet groups in the U.S. upon his return?

The one thing I think Oswald was correct about was his statement that he was a patsy. I think he got set up to take the fall for the assassination but I don't know the extent of his involvement in the plotting beforehand, if any.

Stories like the one Tackett tells just demonstrates to me how easy it was back then to pull off the patsy canard because people were so willing to believe the lone gunmen scenario about a disgruntled Soviet sympathizer.