Thursday, June 30, 2016

How the System Works

I know there are a lot of people disappointed that this week's trial involving the man accused of killing Berit Beck ended in a mistrial.  The jury was not able to reach a verdict in the case--and now prosecutors must decide whether to take the case before another jury--a process likely to take another couple of years--or to make the even harder decision to let the matter sit again until a stronger case can be built sometime in the future.

TV shows and movies give us a skewed view of our legal system.  In Hollywood, the detectives always find the key piece of evidence.  Witnesses have perfect memories.  Suspects give up confessions willingly.  And juries almost always come to same conclusion that we the viewer have.  But in reality, those kinds of cases are rare.

In the Berit Beck case 26-years have passed, and with them have gone all hopes of an "open and shut" investigation.  Pieces of evidence have been lost--not by police negligence--but by the simple act of moving boxes and storage sites over that many years.  Some witnesses and technical experts have died and cannot testify--and to have someone testify "on their behalf" is hearsay and is not admissible in court.  Yes, there was fingerprint evidence (and it was that which led to the filing of these charges) but jurors today are conditioned to expect DNA evidence along with that--and that does not exist in this case.  There is no surveillance camera footage of the crime scene, no cell phone pings off of towers that can be triangulated to estimate a suspect's location at the time of the murder and no eyewitnesses.  And the likelihood of any more evidence like that showing up is very, very slim.

Investigators did the best they could, prosecutors did the best they could do, the defense did what it is supposed to do: create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors and those jurors did the best they could in considering the less-than-perfect case presented to them.  Those who want Berit Beck's killer to be brought to justice should be encouraged that the jury at least failed to come to any verdict--because finding this suspect "not guilty" would have meant no ability to try him again--should additional evidence come to light that would bolster the State's case.

In a perfect world, Berit Beck's killer would have been sitting in a cell for the last 26-years.  On an episode of Cold Case, dectecitves and prosecutors would have pieced together an air-tight case.  But the world is neither perfect nor written to wrap things up in just 60-minutes.  And so justice may have to wait longer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Denying Them Their Identity

While White House claims that ISIS is being contained and their ability to strike against the West is diminished are followed by more ISIS attacks against the West, one tactic employed by the Obama Administration against Islamic terrorism is apparently working.  Islamic terrorists are getting frustrated by the President and his lackeys not calling Islamic terrorism "Islamic terrorism".

This week, Al Qaeda posted on their Arabian website that lone wolf attackers in American target only white people--so that the President and Federal officials can't call their attacks "hate crimes":

“avoid targeting places and crowds where minorities are generally found” because if gays or Latinos appear to be the targets, “the federal government will be the one taking full responsibility.”

The "advice" comes after the Orlando nightclub shooting took place at a gay bar packed for "Latin Night".  While the gunman called 911 from the club to let everyone know that he was acting on behalf of ISIS and several other Islamic terrorist groups, Attorney General Loretta Lynch publicly stated "we will never know his motives"--and then redacted any and all references to Islam and Islamic terrorism from the transcripts of those 911 calls--like no one was ever going to know the difference.  That followed the classification of the Fort Hood shootings as "workplace violence" and another "we will never know their motives" in the San Bernardino shootings. 

What also has to frustrate the Islamic terrorists is that after all of those incidents, the national debate wasn't over "how do we stop Islamic terrorists from striking the US?"--it was instead "When is Congress going to do something about gun control?"  If the President really wanted to get under the skin of the Islamic terror groups, he should start calling them "The NRA".  Of course, President Obama likes to lecture Islamic terrorists about how they "really aren't Islam"--even though they "self-identify" as Islamic--and he always tells the rest of us that we are bigots if we don't recognize "self-identification".

But who knows, maybe if we deny Islamic terrorists their own identities long enough, they will become so frustrated that they just give up.  It can't be any less effective of a strategy than what we are already employing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Value of Collective Wisdom

My favorite analysis of the British vote to leave the European Union last week is that the "Oldsters are 'screwing' the Youngsters".  It is the opinion of those on the Left that everyone who voted for the Brexit was a "fascist, racist old coot who is seeking to put up walls around the country".  Beyond employing the standard liberal tactic of attempting to discredit any opposing viewpoint with labels and marginalization, the "blame the old people" effort forgets the collective wisdom of those generations.

The oldest of the Oldsters actually fought against continental forces trying to bring Great Britain under central control.  Those a little bit younger recall being taken by their mothers into The Tube to escape the bombings and saw first-hand the damage caused by real fascists across the continent.  Nearly all of the Oldsters remember when an Iron Curtain divided Europe and literal walls divided not just countries but families for decades.  They also know what Socialism and Collectivism can do to the financial health of entire swaths of nations.  And all of the Oldsters can recall when Christians and Muslims alternately tried to exterminate each other in the Balkans.

But now the bitter "Remainers" are trying to say that the people who lived through all of that and fought to defeat fascism and who held firm to tear down the walls that divided Europe suddenly turned to vote for instituting that again?  Like they came to a realization that representative government was a "huge mistake"?

Of course, the Oldsters also remember having jobs too.  The kind of jobs where you made something--not sat around talking about concepts and calling that a "job".  And they enjoyed having those jobs more than they enjoyed being able to hop on the Chunnel Train to have lunch at cafes in Paris in the afternoon--or being able to get scholarships to study for a year in Copenhagen--which seem to be the main "losses" that the Youngsters are now complaining about.

And the liberal complaints on this side of the pond are just as farcical.  The same politicians and pundits saying Britons are idiots for giving up the "benefits of free trade in the EU" are the same ones attacking the "free trade" agreements the US has signed with his neighbors and trading partners.  You hear anyone on the campaign trail saying how great NAFTA is?  Anybody openly calling for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement?  Where are the reassurances that jobs moving to Mexico or China are still good--because "we are all in this together"?

I know its passé in this "I know everything because I can look it up on the internet" time--but sometimes maybe we should listen to our elders.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Games People Won't Play

What if you held an Olympics and nobody came to play?  The roster of top-notch athletes who are choosing NOT to compete at Rio, Brazil this summer is growing.  Golfers Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen have all made very public announcements that they will not take part in the return of their sport to the Olympics for the first time since the 1920's.  LeBron James and Stephan Curry have announced they will not be part of Team USA Basketball--and a number of other big names are considering the same decision.

Some of those deciding not to go to Brazil cite concerns over the Zika virus.  You have to consider is a gold medal worth infecting your wife or causing severe birth defects in children you may or may not have even considered having yet?  And for female athletes themselves, that same question hits even closer to home--even for those not yet married or planning families.

Those high profile athletes are lucky, though.  Rory, LeBron and Steph have multiple opportunities to win prestigious championships--and cash in big time on their titles.  But for those in the "we only care about them every four years in the Olympics" sports, that decision is not so easy.  Yes, runners and gymnasts and team handball players and ping pongers have World Championships pretty much every year--but can you name the defending champions in any of them?  You don't get a place on a Wheaties box by winning a weekend tournament in Stuttgart that ESPN 2 shows on tape delay three months later.

So equestrian athletes have to take the risk of mosquito bites in their outdoor sport.  Sailors have to compete in a bay filled with raw sewage from the host city that made many of them sick when they came for an Olympic test event last year.  And even fans have to think about whether the cost, difficulty of travel and the overall hassle of attending such a huge event is worth risk to themselves as well. 

Of course, this is what happens when you decided to have the Olympics in what is still basically a third world country.  I doubt the sprawling slums of Rio will get much air time on NBC.  Little has been made of the city declaring a financial emergency, as the burden of building the venues and infrastructure necessary to host the games has overwhelmed them.  And let's not forget the country took a big hit from hosting the World Cup a couple of years ago and getting left with the financial bag there as well.

This would have been the Olympics that Chicago could have hosted had their bid been accepted.  You may recall that President Obama addressed the International Olympic Committee himself to tout his hometown (as did Oprah, Hillary Clinton and Morgan Freeman--who famously lost his place in his speech).  The IOC immediately showed how much respect they had for the "Most Popular American President Ever" by eliminating Chicago in the first round of voting.  Now that Rio is looking like a brewing disaster, maybe the President should give one of those "I told you so" speeches that he is so good at to the IOC and remind them that "elections have consequences".

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brexit Strategy

Britons head to the polls today to decide if they want to remain a part of the floundering European Union.  Polls have shown the "remain" and "leave" camps running neck and neck for the past few weeks and both sides have taken to scare tactics to try and drive their support.

Those on the Left claim economic ruin will befall the British Isles if they leave the EU.  "No one will want to trade with us", "prices will skyrocket" and "what's left of British industry will collapse" are some of the arguments they have been making.  Those on the Right claim Britain "will be overrun with terrorists and Muslim immigrants looking to kill innocent people and to live on the dole".  Not to be confused with the millions of Britons who already get by almost exclusively on public programs.

Britain has always been only "half in" on the EU.  They abide by the trade and immigration policies set by the Continent--but they never got rid of their own currency and fully adopted the Euro.  And that has been key to their continued financial solvency--they were able to print more money when times got tough.  Of course, their national debt is now better than 90-percent of gross national product--but that pales in comparison to Greece--which adopted the Euro and had to beg its EU "friends" for more cash--and their 175% debt to GDP ratio.

As with all of the countries considering a departure from (or who are looking to join) the EU this is really just a question of "home rule".  Is expediency in trade and travel across borders worth giving up the level of control you may want (or need) on those same issues?  Who really decides what is right and best for those in the UK--elected representatives in London or bureaucrats in Brussels?

Considering that Europe really doesn't have the tradition of elected representation that we here in the US have (and their reliance on Big Government to "take care of you"), "stay" will likely eek out a narrow victory today and the New World Order will remain intact--until the next time somebody asks to determine their own fate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Tail Wagging the Dog

If you started the university and college system that we have in America today, would you include a department that brings with it high-profile arrests for violent crimes?  Would you want a department that fosters binge drinking among the student population?  Would you start a department where those participating would be encouraged to take part in prostitution, videotaping sexual encounters and hiring strippers for entertainment purposes?  Would you hire employees for that department that would engage in workplace affairs, encourage students to cover up crimes on campus and that would actively recruit students who can't meet minimum standards for admission?  And would you pay those employees more than anyone else on campus--including the chancellor and the system president?  Would you encourage students to attend the minimum number of courses for just one semester--not attend any classes in the second semester--and then leave the school?

If your answer to any of those questions is "Heck no, that's not what colleges and universities are supposed to be about" then your school would not have an Athletic Department.  College sports continues to give higher education a black eye--and the punches to the face continue to come faster and more often.

The most recent case involves two starters for the University of Alabama football team--a perennial power that competes for the national championship almost every year.  Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones were recently stopped by police and found to have marijuana and a stolen gun in their possession.  It appeared that an All Southeast Conference lineman and a quality defensive back were about to face felony charges and suspensions--until football-loving District Attorney Jerry Jones (not the Dallas Cowboys owner) stepped in and decided that no charges were going to be filed at all.  And his explanation shows just how much the tail wags the dog now in college sports:

"I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I'm doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all in the air conditioning. ROLL TIDE!!"

OK, I may have added the "ROLL TIDE"--but you know that's what DA Jerry Jones was thinking while making that statement.  And where the judge that allowed a Stanford swimmer to get off with less than a year in jail for raping an unconscious woman--Jones will not face any blowback from his constituents because they are as big of Alabama Football fans as he is (well except for the Auburn fans--who will likely start a recall just so the players are charged and can't play in the Iron Bowl game against the Tigers).

This incident--and lack of institutional control--can be added to the Baylor Football sexual assault coverup that cost the University President Ken Starr and Coach Art Briles their jobs.  And the Baylor Basketball murder coverup more than a decade ago.  And the Minnesota Basketball sexual assaults and the Minnesota Basketball sex tape scandal.  And the Louisville Basketball prostitution parties for recruits.  And North Carolina Basketball and Football players having their coursework done for them--when they weren't enrolled in fake classes set up just for them.  And the false accusations made against Duke Lacrosse by a stripper hired to perform at their off-campus house.  And Rick Pitino being accused of raping a woman at a Louisville restaurant.  And Arkansas Football Coach Bobby Petrino getting in a motorcycle accident with the student assistant with whom he was having an affair.  And--well you get the picture.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

[Redacted] is Just [Redacted] With Us

There are times that I swear the main goal of President Obama's second term is to goad and aggravate Conservatives and the Republican Party.  I'm feeling that way again after the Department of Justice released the transcripts of the 911 calls placed by the Orlando nightclub shooter and redacted all references to Islam, ISIS, Allah and terrorist leaders.

There is a narrative that the Obama Administration (and Democrats in general) go out of their way to avoid terms like "Islamic Terrorism" or even "Islamic Extremism" when describing actions like the Orlando shooting, or the Paris attacks or the Brussels Airport bombing.  The President and his staff repeatedly tell us that the people who partake of such violence are not "of Islam".  That,in turn, becomes fodder for the talk radio hosts and Fox News Channel guests who put forth the argument that the Administration is refusing to identify the "real enemy" in the War on Terror.

I think President Obama ordered the DOJ to take out all of those references just to further infuriate those people.  Sure, Attorney General Loretta Lynch did the Sunday morning news shows defending the decision--claiming that all of the references to Islamic terror groups were redacted so as "not to allow the shooter's propaganda to be spread further".  But it was Lynch's own FBI that had let everyone know that the shooter had claimed to be inspired by ISIS and that he was killing in their name.  So what additional "propaganda" was being "spread" by hearing what he actually had to say?

What if the Orlando shooter had been Crazy White Supremacist Guy--and his 911 diatribe had been espousing the values of the National Rifle Association?  Or that he was killing gays and Latinos because he was inspired by Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric?  Would that "propaganda" have been redacted for our "own protection"?

Now we are going to spend another week talking about deleted words from transcripts and what Islam is "really about"--instead of working to identify the next potential bomber or gunman.  You know, the real threats--not the "potential" ones we work so hard to "neutralize"--like the elderly woman with the replacement hip that keeps setting off the scanner at the airport and who needs to be "patted down" by TSA every time she tries to fly.