Friday, October 12, 2007

Flying Saucers! Also, French Justice, and Bad Trips

Let's get right to this, shall we?

> Flying fucking saucer! Okay, so yesterday we had the car that turns into a plane. That was cool. This is maybe even cooler - hell, it's so terrifying-cool that it makes me giddy. To recap: A group has already designed, built and tested a robot flying saucer. These babies rise vertically into the air, and can hover or motor around. They're safer, cheaper and more maneuverable than a helicopter. These already exist and work.

So of course, the Pentagon is interested. They think they might want to use them for, say, urban warfare. Very, very soon my friends, we could be living in a world in which the US army uses flying saucers. In cities. They can land and takeoff from virtually anywhere, so we're not talking about distant UAV drone planes. Contemplate that image for a second. Imagine you're on the streets of Baghdad and there are fucking UFOs in the air, some bringing supplies or soldiers, but others just cruising by... watching.

In practical terms, they will not mean much. Just a better helicopter. But if the image of a UFO-wielding army doesn't fill you with glee and dread and apocalypse... I dunno what to tell you. We are the aliens. Someday we will descend on other planets in our flying saucers with our strange weapons. We will want to know who is in charge.

> Elsewhere...

NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Let's see, she was already mentally ill, drunk, and too young to legally buy the things in the first place... Yeah, this seems like a logical response to her death.

The part that boggles my mind is this figure: Out of half a million doses sold a year, Amsterdam police have had 148 mushroom incidents in the past three years.

Can we get some figures comparing that to the number of alcohol incidents? Please?

> The law works very differently in France.

It's a big complicated story, kind of a true crime thing, but the upshot is, this guy just got convicted of a 30-year-old murder of a casino princess in the French Riviera.

Okay, first off, let me say that I'm sure the guy is probably guilty or, if not guilty, at least a scumbag. Probably, the world is going to be peachy fine with him being in jail.

But doesn't this kind of explode your American sense of Justice? Some points:

- They've never found a body, and don't even pretend to know where, when, how or even if a murder took place

- Which by the way, it might not have. The girl attempted suicide twice in the weeks before she disappeared. She wasn't on good terms with her family. There's no reasonable doubt here?

- They've now tried this guy three times for the same crime

- The second trial acquitted him for insufficient proof.

I didn't realize how attached I was to the American conception of justice until I read this article. It genuinely pissed me off. I mean - you can't try someone again - that's double jeopardy! You can't convict someone when you have absolutely no physical evidence or damning first-hand testimony - there's such a thing as reasonable doubt!

I don't know shit about France's justice system, so I can't say for sure what principles it espouses. But clearly, they aren't the same as those in ye olde American Constitution or legal system.

Which got me thinking. A full half of the bill of rights specifically addresses the rights of the accused. Obviously, this shit is deep in America's genetics, despite concerted attacks from Bush and Co. to dislodge some of it. But is our way best?

That French guy is a scumbag. For sure. He had his mistress lie to give him an alibi, which gives you a certain smoke-fire situation. Is the world worse off because French courts hounded this guy and retried him until they got a conviction. Maybe there was no evidence. But come on, they knew. If OJ had been French, he'd be in jail right now. (Well, actually he is in jail right now, but you get my point.) Is this a bad thing?

And you know what? Yeah. It is. Maybe it's not so bad to be able to re-try someone if the evidence changes, like it did here. Maybe. But I can't see myself ever being comfortable with a government being able to punish someone unless it's totally sure he did something wrong. Look at that poor German bastard the CIA tortured. They were pretty sure he was a terrorist, right?

If you're like me, you don't trust people in power, and you really don't trust people who have a mad on to punish other people. And that's why, yeah, I'm sticking with my reasonable doubt standard, thank you very much.

Call me ethnocentric.

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