June 3rd, 2003

flavored with age


The Zacarias Moussaoui trial continues to amuse and delight. Intended as a showpiece for the fairness of the American justice system, it has devolved into a showpiece for the absurdity of the American justice system.

Moussaoui's decision to act as his own attorney has proven extremely entertaining, because he's, well, mentally unbalanced. However, the prosecution's insistence that he was competent to act on his own behalf -- undertaken in the most mercenary possible fashion, because finding him mentally incompetent would prevent them from seeking the death penalty -- has proven to be a colossal misstep, since he has turned the entire proceeding into a big (if pretty funny) joke.

In addition, it seems to have not occurred to the government that Moussaoui might be, er, innocent. He has long claimed that he had nothing to do with the terror attacks of September 11th; he doesn't deny he knew some of the alleged attackers, nor does he deny an ideological affiliation with them, but that's not the same as being the "20th hijacker". Another of his claims is that he can be exonerated of criminal wrongdoing by the testimony of Ramzi bin-al'Shibh, currently one of the "enemy combatants" held by the US government as an al-Q'aeda mastermind. Indeed, it appears that bin-al'Shibh has, under interrogation, claimed that the September 11th plotters considered Moussaoui too much of a wild card, and deliberately excluded him from planning their crime.

Recognizing that this is exculpatory evidence that would get him off the hook, Moussaoui (who may be crazy, but isn't stupid) has repeatedly requested to be allowed a videotaped deposition from bin-al'Shibh as part of his defense. This would seem like a reasonable request, even a necessary one: despite the defendant's willingness to mock the system at every turn, there's nothing outrageous about him asking that evidence from a key witness that would prove his innocence be introduced. However, this evidence is not being allowed. The government claims that to allow communication with an enemy of the state (or whatever dubious legal status they've slapped the al-Q'aeda detainees with this week) would be "a grave threat to national security".

How letting one person in prison talk to another person in prison thousands of miles away via the one-way medium of videotape is somewhat confusing, but the gist of it is that Moussaoui is intentionally not being allowed to present testimony from the one man who could prove him innocent. (This is a rather terrifying doppelganger of a case that concluded in Germany back in February. Back then, I wrote that I had a feeling we'd be seeing a lot more cases like this.)

In the end, the government is waking up to the fact that it would be disastrous for them to let the case actually go to court. They're considering a number of options -- reclassifying him as an "enemy combatant", securing special exemptions by the Supreme Court, or trying him in a military tribunal -- anything but actually subjecting him to a fair trial under the constitutional and criminal laws of the United States. Why? Well, they say it's because it would set disastrous precedents for the ability of the country to prosecute terrorists. But the only precedent I see being made is that the government might actually be forced to conform to a convincing burden of proof. It's very difficult to hear about the case and not think that the reason they're so nervous isn't that they're worried about making hash of our system of law, but that they're worried that unless the burden of proof is lowered or eliminated, they might have to let their man go.

Here's your showpiece, folks.
flavored with age


Did you know that there's a new reality show about what happens to people who used to be on reality shows but now aren't on reality shows anymore? It's about how they cope with the end of their "fifteen minutes of fame".

So, in other words, we are being asked to watch a reality show about people who we only paid attention to in the first place because they were on a reality show, and now they aren't.

I am assured that reality programming is an improvement on the old TV paradigms. I await my enlightenment as to how.
flavored with age

Prince Vince: tha Combeback

Oh, that crazy Vincent Gallo. Apparently he has retracted his previous apology for making a film as shitty as The Brown Bunny, and he's got this to say:

"The only thing I'm sorry about is putting a curse on Roger Ebert's colon. If a fat pig like Roger Ebert doesn't like my movie, then I'm sorry for him.

"I'm sorry I'm not gay or Jewish, so I don't have a special interest group of journalists that support me," Gallo says. "I'm sorry for a lot of things, but I'm not sorry for making this movie."

Vince, you so crazy!