Friday, September 29, 2006

Travis Biehn wins on appeal

Travis Biehn, the Newfoundland-born teenager who was convicted in Pennsylvania last year of making a bomb threat against his school and possessing explosives, has won his appeal. Biehn's conviction was overturned last month, and the DA has not filed a counter-appeal.

Travis emailed me last week to let me know that common sense had prevailed, and earlier this week he emailed me a link to the text of his appeal, which unfortunately has gone dead, so I can't link to it here.

To summarize, the appeal court reached the same conclusion that any reasonable person would: the evidence against Biehn was insufficient to warrant a conviction.

Biehn was originally convicted of making a bomb threat, but there was absolutely no evidence that he had made the threat. In fact, he was one of two students who reported the threat, and the teacher's aide to whom he reported it did not take it seriously enough to take it any further.

He was also convicted of possessing bomb-making materials, which, at the time, I erroneously wrote was more or less a slam-dunk. I was trying to take the most balanced view that I could, but I was wrong. In fact, under Pennsylvania law, it is only an offence to possess bomb-making materials if you have the intent to commit a crime with them. And of course, the DA had no evidence whatsoever that Biehn had any such intent. On the contrary, the evidence showed that Biehn had legal purposes for the materials.

The DA's argument was essentially circular: Biehn must have made the threat, because he possessed explosive materials, and he must have had criminal intent, because he made the threat. The only "evidence" supporting either charge was the existence of the other charge, and Biehn was convicted based on innuendo. The second charge, of possessing explosives, is a felony.

The appeals court drew the obvious conclusion, the conclusion that the trial judge should have drawn, and overturned the convictions.

Congratulations, Travis. Reason has finally won the day.

From Canadian newspapers and television, which treated Biehn's conviction as a major story, there has not been one peep. Consequently, a Google search on Biehn's name won't find that his name was cleared. The media is good at reporting stories, but is usually piss-poor at correcting them, or following them up months after the fact. If Travis Biehn's original conviction was big news, then the fact that it was overturned is equally important. But that sound you hear is, as the song says, the sound of silence.

Before we start waxing triumphant about the world o' blogs, let me direct you to the Trenchcoat Chronicles, which has reacted to news of the appeal by insisting that the trial judge was right all along. That would be the much-touted "self-correcting nature of the blogosphere" at work, folks.

The really important thing, when you're running a single-issue blog like the Trenchcoat Chronicles, dedicated to the proposition that schools are filled with out-of-control, dangerous kids, is never to admit that you could be wrong. Because it's hard to piss your pants if you let go of fear.

Fear is what this whole sorry story is about. Biehn was charged, in the absence of evidence, because of fear. He was convicted, based on innuendo, in a climate of fear. His conviction became news touted by a media that acts to magnify that fear, and commented on by bloggers who were, by and large, too busy pissing themselves to use their brains.

The results is that whenever anyone Googles Travis's name, they'll find a pile of hysteria suggesting that he was once a mad bomber.

That's the crime here.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Life is not baseball

In baseball, it's three strikes, and you're a complete and worthless moron who is chased out of town by rabid dogs and sportswriters.

In life, you get to reiterate the same dumb bullshit a fourth time. In fact, you get to keep repeating it for as long as you can find people dumb enough to listen.

Yes, it's a terrorist strike on Tim Hortons ... again.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Yer daily paranoia

Now that the Conservatives are in power, everything is messed up here in the world o' blogs. Somebody has to post paranoid conspiracy theories and similar drivel, and Angry in the Great White North is too busy being a martyr. Where will you get your daily dose of wild, unsupported and unsupportable speculation? What's a wingnut to do?

Gentle reader, we at the Wonderdog Institute for the Politically Insane have heard the call, and we are on the job. Which brings me to yesterday's diplomatic crisis, in which Canada and the United States nearly came to stern finger-wagging over Arctic sovereignty.

It is tempting to observe that Angry speculated at length over the possibility of armed conflict between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island, but has yet to make a peep over the possibility that we might invade the United States and teach them a lesson they won't soon stop giggling over. But I digress. Again. Which I do a lot, these days, as I am now digressing on the subject of digression. Dammit! Stop typing!

Where was I? Ah, yes....

Does anyone recall our last spat with the US over the Arctic? It occurred in 1985, when they sent a Coast Guard icebreaker called the Polar Sea through the northwest passage without asking nicely.

Does anyone recall who was in power down there? A Republican president named Ronald Reagan.

Does anyone recall who was in power up here? A Conservative prime minister named Brian Mulroney.

Does anyone recall what their relationship was like? Downright cuddly, by the standards of the day. They used to sit around, get plastered, and sing old Irish drinking songs together for the benefit of the cameras, although Reagan often had difficulty remembering the words. Mulroney, for his part, had a hard time saying "Shamrock Shummit, or shummit like that" as the evening progressed.

Every time we've had a Conservative PM over the past 30 years, the Americans have challenged our sovereignty in the Arctic.

Coincidence? You'd like to think so, wouldn't you?

What secret messages have the Conservatives been sending to Washington? What military threats have they made? I can't tell you, as I'm busy hiding in the closet for fear of the blueshirts. I may not get to finish this post before they come to get me.

As a matter of fact, I hope I don't get to finish it, as I'll only end up writing something relatively sane. I might point out, for example, that Standing Up for Canada over Arctic sovereignty is something of a red herring when the real issues in our relationship with the US involve the privacy of Canadians, that security perimeter, and so on.

And where's the fun in that?