It was Always Really About the Oil

In a rather stunning disclosure, Alan Greenspan, former head of the federal reserve, admits that he urged Bush to depose Saddam Hussein for the simplest of all possible reasons: the oil.

Greenspan insists that nobody in the Bush administration agreed: they were only concerned about WMDs and democracy and human rights. But they also told him that nobody here talks about the oil. They knew that if there was the slightest suspicion of it, the other Arab countries, and the rest of the world, would go ballistic. It is quite possible that they never talked about the oil because they didn’t need to. Everyone understood it absolutely perfectly. Except George Bush who, to this day, seems to believe that it was about democracy and the safety of American citizens.

Keep in mind that America doesn’t have to actually hold deed to the oil to take possession of it. They merely have to ensure that whoever controls the oil is friendly to American dollars and technology, like Saudi Arabia.

In Greenspan’s eyes, it is right and good that the U.S. should take oil from where ever it can be found and use it to generate prosperity and a high standard of living for America and Americans. He is a former (?) disciple of Ayn Rand. America must be strong. It must do whatever serves its own interests. It can take the oil. If you’re too weak to take the oil away from America, then that’s just tough.

There is a pretty kind of logic to this spirit of individualism. It is very, very pretty. It is elegant and slim, because strategic decisions are unfettered by moral or ethical considerations, and should be guided strictly by questions of efficiency. How soon can we get rich? How many bodies do we step over to obtain our goals?

To believe in the myths of individualism and capitalism, you have to believe in “finders-keepers”, for there is no way to justify the possession of oil or air or water on any basis other than “might makes right”.

Or you can believe that we are all in this world together and nobody in particular has any kind of magical title to the world’s resources.

Or, like George Bush, you can believe your own spin: God commanded us to destroy Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a great sinner.

The disadvantage of Ayn Rand’s brand of individualism is that eventually someone stronger comes along and knocks you off the pony and takes it away. And you really have no moral grounds upon which to complain. You can only hope to make yourself strong enough so that you can take it back. And to make yourself strong is to make yourself cruel. The suicide bomber is Ayn Rand’s ultimate legacy: not strong enough to take the oil back, but fully comprehending that the world is really about raw power, individual fanatics are easily convinced that there is meaning in flailing against the machine. In George’s Bush’s gentle dreams– which are not Ayn Rand’s dreams– there can be no comprehension of individuals who give up the possibility of enjoying the fruits of raw power. The only explanation is the lamest one: they must be jealous of our affluence and prosperity and freedom.

Patriotism, in the case of Iraq, is an attempt to convince most people– who do believe we are in this together to a great extent– that the war on Iraq is a moral cause. It is a lie. It can’t be anything but a lie because the war on Iraq is about nothing more than “finder’s keepers”. We found your oil. Now it’s ours. Just try to take it from us.

Ayn Rand had nothing but contempt for religion.  Which is odd, because most of Evangelical America believes in Alan Greenspan.


The bizarre thing about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and those backroom fascists who believe in it, is that even the most hard-core capitalist doesn’t practice it when it comes to neighborhoods and families and churches and schools. Everyone knows how long a family would last, or what a neighborhood would look like, or how children at school would behave, if we all actually practiced Ayn Rand’s version of enlightened self-interest. There would be no need to do chores, or clean up your garbage, or keep it quiet after 11:00 at night, or do your homework– if the world works better if I only do what is in my own self-interest.

She is consistent in one respect: there is no need of a god in her scheme of things either. We are quite enough.

My Dissent on Stephen Truscott

I am part of a very, very small minority: I think Stephen Truscott might well have murdered Lynn Harper.  The online Canadian Encyclopedia flatly states that he was “wrongfully convicted” and that he was “exonerated” five decades later.   But the  special five-judge panel of the Court of Appeal did not exonerate him.  It “acquitted” him, because, they said, a re-trial today would not have found him guilty.  It specifically declined to assert his innocence.

It’s not an easy position to take: every single person I know who is aware of the case believes Truscott is innocent, and that he has been proven innocent.  The latter is objectively not true.

The evidence, even after all these years, is complex and confusing.  Witnesses contradicted each other.  Important physical evidence has been lost.  To explain my position, I wish to go back to the original witnesses.

The Supreme Court Ruling (1967-05-04) gives a fairly complete account of all the witness testimony.

The panel of the Court of Appeal for Ontario (2007-08-27)was probably right, in it’s recent ruling, to declare that Truscott might not today have been found guilty by a reasonable jury of the charges against him, based on the evidence offered at his original trial, some of which has now been discredited (particularly the time of death), and some of which may have been obtained through improper investigation (the examination of Truscott by a doctor without advising him or his parents that he was a suspect).  They may also have calibrated their ruling to contemporaneous public opinion which is overwhelmingly in favor of Truscott’s innocence.  Most of this opinion is reflexive of unexamined belief inspired by a kind of sentimental consensus that has developed on the issue.

But the Panel was also right to say that it could not, with any degree of certainty, pronounce him innocent.  In spite of the consensus.  That is significant.   In many cases of wrongful conviction there is clear evidence of innocence, or that someone else committed the crime.  In Truscott’s case, they decided that the evidence did not convincingly show that he could not have been guilty.

But I have three main reasons for my own uncertainty.  In summary:

  1. The weak evidence that Truscott ever passed the bridge with Harper on their way to the highway
  2. The location where Harper’s body was found
  3. The medical examination of Truscott’s penis

Truscott never testified at his original trial, as was his prerogative.  After several years of appeals, he was given the opportunity again in 1966, this time before the Supreme Court of Canada.   What is surprising is that even with time to prepare, mentally and emotionally, for what should have been a game-changing moment, he failed.  The Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-1, denied his appeal.  In their judgement they stated unequivocally that Truscott was a lousy witness in his own defense.  They did not believe him.  

Truscott’s testimony, recorded verbatim,  was extremely problematic. He was given ample opportunity to impress the court with a clear, forthright description of what actually happened the night of June 9, 1959.  This he failed to do.   If he was not with Lynn Harper in the woods at that time, he was factually somewhere else doing something else.  Facts don’t meander or vary according to circumstance.  The court was generous in offering him space to simply recount what the facts were.  This he failed to do.  He didn’t seem to have any facts independent of what he knew witnesses had said at the first trial.

Instead, he seemed to equivocate, blend, improvise, and evade. He was a bad witness in every respect.

Now, it’s clearly possible that he was nervous, confused, or even evasive in front of the Supreme Court for reasons unrelated to his guilt or innocence, but whatever the cause, he could not give a rational narrative account of how he took Lynne Harper down the road to the highway, who he passed and did not pass, how long it took, who he talked to, and then how he left her there and, as he was headed back down the road, turned around to see her get into a stranger’s car. It seemed to some of the justices that he was trying to say whatever he thought would convince them that he was innocent, instead of trusting to a real narrative of the night’s events.

By itself, this isn’t decisive… but it’s disturbing.

Truscott acknowledged to the police that he gave Lynne Harper a ride on his bike the night of her death, from a school yard at the “station” (near the town of Clinton) to the intersection of the county road and Highway #8. There was an interesting period of two days before his arrest in which Truscott circulated among his friends, who were all talking about the disappearance of Lynne Harper, and many of whom knew Truscott had been seen with her moments before she disappeared. If Truscott was guilty, his situation was precarious. He needed to know what his situation was:  how much did they know; what did they see?

Again, assuming he was guilty, it was immediately apparent that everyone knew he had given her a ride, and it was also apparent that nobody said they had seen him take her into Lawson’s Bush. Truscott acts as if he was worried that someone might have– he volunteers to some of his friends that he had gone there looking for stray calves that evening.   But he was unable to fit that activity neatly within the time-frame between his departure from the school with Lynne on his bike handlebars and his return to his home.  He also belatedly realized that the statement could be incriminating.

Later, he denied the story about the calves.

He told the police that Lynne wanted a ride to Highway 8 in order to go see some ponies.  On the night of her disappearance, he made no mention of a car picking her up to anyone.  (Today, he insists that he did.)  On the next day, asked to explain how she disappeared from his bicycle, he offered the story of the car picking her up, a 1959 Chevrolet Belair with something yellow on the back (implying it was a license plate) he claimed he could see from the bridge.  Various witnesses confirmed that it might be possible to see the colour of a license plate from the bridge, but the car would have had to turn awkwardly to display them in that manner.  The police did not think it was likely.

His story seemed to vary on the details that he thought or knew– with some certainty– could not have been known by anyone else. He never provided any details the police didn’t already know.  He claimed that a car picked up Lynne Harper at the Hwy 8 intersection but anyone could have thought of that unspecific supportive detail.   If he had seen a specific person walking nearby who was not identified by anyone else and who could confirm that he or she saw Truscott and Harper on the bicycle, he would have had a slam-dunk of an alibi.  Instead, he identified people that everyone knew were at the bridge that night (and some, including Gerry Durnin, who were not, or Arnold George who denied he was there at that time).

The second reason for my uncertainty of his innocence is the problem of the location where they found Lynne Harper’s body.  If Truscott is innocent, some person picked her up at the highway, drove off, raped and murdered her, and then turned around and brought her body back to the very area from which he had abducted her.  He took her body into Lawson’s woods and left her there to be found two days later.  That would be a remarkable.  He would certainly have been aware that people would be looking for her.  One imagines he would want to be as far away from that area as possible.

It is possible to imagine a scenario: suppose someone picked up Lynne Harper and then, for some reason, she changed her mind about running away and asked to be taken home.  And suppose it was at that point– and it would have to have been very late at night– this stranger decided to rape and murder her.

You see how strange and unlikely that would seem.

[update 2024-03-26] After telling us about a man named Alec Kalichuk who lived near Clinton and had a record of approaching young girls and committing inappropriate acts, Julian Sher writes this in his book exonerating Truscott, “Until You Are Dead”:

There is no evidence Kalichuk murdered Lynne Harper.  There is also no evidence that he did not.  His whereabouts on the evening of June 9 are unknown.  But his bizarre actions before June 9 and his rapid mental collapse afterwards suggest he was at least as likely a suspect as the boy police had scooped up and incarcerated in the Goderich jail with “lighting speed”.

Okay– seriously?  There is “no evidence that he did not”?  There is also no evidence that Truscott “did not”.

Sher is trying to offer an alternative suspect.  At any given time in any specific location, there will be people with records of inappropriate or criminal behaviors.  Sher chose Kalichuk not because there is even a little evidence he might have been involved but because he happens to be available and his known offenses have some kinship with the molestation of young girls.

Steven Truscott indisputably rode off from the school yard with Lynne Harper on his bike and was the last person to see her alive.  Only two out of numerous potential witnesses reported seeing him pass the bridge with Harper, one from distance.   He had physical injuries to his genitals that could have come from a violent rape.    He is a far, far more likely suspect  in the murder of Lynne Harper than Kalichuk.

There also is some evidence to indicate that Harper had been murdered and raped exactly where her body was found in Lawson’s woods– there seemed to be indentations where a rapist’s knees and toes would have dug into the ground.  Harper’s body showed evidence of forceful pressure into the ground, with wounds on her back. The Supreme Court gave great weight to this evidence in dismissing the idea that someone would have picked her up, raped and murdered her somewhere else, and then returned her body to the very location where people would be most likely searching for her.  They believed the evidence showing that she was raped and murdered exactly where her body was found.  It’s not completely inconceivable that she was left there after an assault in different location.  But it’s a stretch.  A big stretch.

Finally, there was the injuries to Truscott’s penis, as examined by two medical doctors after the police took him in for questioning.  (In a misstep, the police seized Truscott and held him for questioning for three hours before his father was notified).  His father was present at the examination (the police behaving properly) and it was conducted by Truscott’s own doctor.  There is little doubt about the substance of the information derived from it.  There were serious lesions, about the size of a quarter, on two sides of Truscott’s penis.  They were not bleeding at the time of examination but they were “oozing” a substance from an injury that seemed to have occurred a few days previously– the day, possibly, that Lynne Harper had disappeared.

It was somewhat ridiculously asserted that the wounds were consistent with forced penetration of a prepubescent girl’s vagina.  They might have been, but I defy any medical expert to provide that specific a cause without understanding that the police were looking for exactly that explanation.  Truscott, embarrassed, finally reluctantly claimed it was the result of excessive masturbation.  The doctor should have said, hell, that’s not an unreasonable explanation either.  But doctor John Addison continued to question Steven and his answers became ambiguous, vague, and confused.  He repeatedly implied that he “might” have done this or that, he might have wandered into a field after dropping Lynne off, he “might” have done something inappropriate.

We have no record of Addison’s interrogation and a judge rightly later blasted the police for conducting an interrogation without informing Truscott that he was a suspect and excluded Addison’s evidence, from his extended questioning of Truscott, from the trial.  Again, the justice system behaving reasonably.

I don’t think this evidence is, by itself, conclusive about Truscott’s guilt, but, together with the other evidence, it’s a factor.

That’s why, as I said, I personally might have voted –with reluctance– “not guilty”.  I think I might have concluded that he probably was guilty, but the prosecution had not made an completely convincing case.  No DNA evidence from sperm, of course, at the time.  No fingerprints found.  No witnesses– on a busy night along the county road– saw him enter the bush with Harper.  The two star witnesses for the prosecution, Jocelyne Gaudet and Arnold “Butch” George, were strikingly inconsistent– even on the stand– and sometimes almost incoherent in terms of time and place.

And what was probably the most compelling evidence to the jury, the contents of Lynne Harper’s stomach, removed two days after her murder.  Dr. John Penistan insisted, in court, that the contents indicated death sometime between 7:15 or so and 7:45 on June 9th.  He did not produce his original notes– cause enough, in my view, for a mistrial.  There is evidence that suggests he did not have nearly that specific a conclusion until after the police made it apparent that there was a limited window of opportunity for Steven Truscott, their prime suspect, to have murdered her.  In the same way, evidence about bicycle tires imprinted in the mud near the crime scene and the supposed imprint of shoes like Steven Truscott’s below the body appear to have been manipulated to implicate Truscott.

Remarkably– if it was Truscott– nobody even saw them go into the woods, though numerous children who knew both of them as school-mates were in the area.  That works in Truscott’s favor.  But I have been at the location: there is a rise in the land between the bridge over the river and Lawson’s Bush.  It is entirely likely that no one on the bridge or near it could have scene anyone ride a bike down the tractor trail towards the location where Harper’s body was found.

The problem– a big one– is that if we accept that because no witnesses reported seeing him enter the woods with Lynne Harper we have some kind of valid evidence, then the other evidence by the same witnesses testify that Truscott never rode past the bridge with Lynne Harper on his handlebars, proving that he is a liar.  Just because they didn’t see him enter the woods doesn’t mean he didn’t.   But if they did not see him pass by them– within a few feet– with Lynne Harper on his handlebars, we have to accept that he did not take her to the intersection, which means something else happened between the time he rode off from the school yard and the time he returned home, alone.

I have visited the scene of the crime.  If Truscott is guilty, as I think he probably is, it is somewhat remarkable that no one saw them go into the woods, especially given that witness varied so much on many other details.  But it would not be unreasonable to believe that they simply weren’t looking in that direction or paying attention to a pair of figures on a bicycle in the distance.

No alternative explanation for how Lynn’s body came to be found in Lawson’s bush seems convincing.  It’s difficult to explain. It’s difficult to imagine. Did a stranger– the man who picked her up at the highway– take her somewhere for a few hours and then return when none of the kids swimming or fishing in the Bayfield River (between the highway and the woods) were still around? Did he get confused and drive around and end up back where he started by mistake? Was the scientific evidence mistaken: was she raped somewhere else and then perversely returned to the area he took her from, for some grim joke?

There is one possibility I hadn’t considered when I first wrote this piece. Suppose Truscott’s story was true, and she had been picked up by a stranger in a car. Suppose that after driving some distance away (to give most of the children time to leave the bridge area and return home), the stranger began to frighten her with his behavior, or suppose she changed her mind about running away, and suppose that, in either case, she asked him to bring her back home? Suppose he did, reluctantly, and then, at the last minute, saw Lawson’s woods on the left, drove down the old farm road, and attacked her there?  Again, it’s a stretch.  If he did it early in the evening, he would certainly have been spotted.  If he did it much later, he would almost certainly have expected people to be searching for her.

A farmer who owned land adjacent to the wood where the body was found, Bob Lawson, after he heard that Lynne was missing, reported to the police that he had seen a strange car parked along the wood about 10:00 the night Lynne disappeared, and that he had exchanged words with the driver who then quickly drove away. He thought he saw a much smaller person than the driver in the passenger seat.  Not much was made of this evidence.  Off-hand, I could imagine a couple looking for a spot for a romantic interlude or other non-sinister explanations.

Nobody seemed to give much weight to this evidence.  I’m not sure why.

The only problem with this scenario is that it would have been unlikely to have gone without notice in the first few hours after Truscott left her at the highway, because of the number of witnesses, and the day light. Again, it’s possible, but…. [added April 27, 2008]

Some of the reasons that people give for believing Truscott is innocent don’t carry a lot of weight with me. Sure he has consistently maintained his innocence for all these years. Sure he actively sought a retrial (after his release) with very little to gain. Sure he seems like a very nice man. But he didn’t seriously pursue exoneration until after he was married. Did he suddenly have a passion for clearing his name? Or did the passion come from his wife, who believed his claims of innocence, and was outraged by injustice of it all? Is it possible that Stephen Truscott, before he married, at that stage of his life, felt lucky just to be free?  That he didn’t want to press his luck with a too-close re-examination of the case.  Is it equally possible he did not have faith in a justice system that had so clearly gotten it wrong?

It’s possible that his wife, who believed his claims of innocence, felt strongly about changing the verdict.  It’s possible that Truscott, knowing he really was guilty,  felt compelled to follow through with an appeal.

Truscott was only 14 at the time of Lynne Harper’s murder. But he was 5′ 7″ at the time, and 130 pounds.

As I said, I have no problem believing that Truscott might have been wrongfully convicted. Jocelyn Gaudet’s damning testimony (that Stephen had made a “date” with her to meet in Lawson’s bush, implying that when she didn’t show up, he, frustrated, sought out Lynne Harper instead) now impresses no one. The bicycle track found near the body was farcically unlikely to have come from Truscott’s bike (it was made in the mud and there had been no rain for a long time). The time of death given by the pathologist as precisely during the hour Truscott was with Harper is now disbelieved. (This testimony was initially regarded as proof she died early in the evening– while she was with Truscott. A reexamination of the evidence only proves that she could have died later. But that’s important– this evidence has been re-examined carefully because it is so pivotal to the case. She could have been killed later. At least one expert, Dr. Warren Spitz, who examined the reports 40 years later, said he “stood behind” the original autopsy conclusions.)

The testimony of the children at the river and along the road is inconsistent and unreliable. Astonishingly, it still is today! That alone deserves a book: they can’t all still be telling the truth. Their memories have become conformed to whatever version of the story they have insisted on telling again and again and again over all the years but, I repeat, they can’t possibly all be telling the truth. Either Truscott rode past the culvert with Lynne Harper on his bike and returned without her or he didn’t.

I’m never surprised to read about a case of wrongful conviction. I think the police and prosecutors often pick on the first likely suspect and build a case around him. I just read about how a man convicted of rape and murder in Mississippi and sentenced to death was recently released after DNA evidence proved that he was not the source of the sperm found on the victim’s body.

The man is black and mildly retarded. The authorities say they might still try him again, because they don’t find DNA evidence “convincing”. He might have had an accomplice. “We didn’t need DNA evidence to convict him the first time” says a state attorney.

I have very little doubt that they got the wrong man.  After making the solemn case that he acted alone and was solely responsible for the rape and murder, they magically construct a second perpetrator who left the DNA evidence.  They are clearly lying.

Did I mention that he was black?

There is nothing about the Truscott case the betrays the same insidiousness of police work.  In fact, the police appear to have behaved relatively responsibly.  They gathered evidence, had Truscott examined by a doctor, and they didn’t bully or browbeat him into a confession.  He had access to a decent lawyer.  And, as I mentioned, he had a chance to testify in front of the Supreme Court and make his case.

The DNA evidence from the Truscott case– whatever there was left of the samples they took from Lynne Harper’s body– went missing years ago and is presumed lost. That is a tragedy.  We will never know for sure if Truscott is innocent or guilty.


A few years ago I undertook a project on the Truscott evidence.  Taking the testimony of all the children and adults who gave information on where they were during the evening of June 9, 1959, I created a 3D motion graphic in Lightwave to plot everyone’s claimed movements.  I created a Truscott-and-Harper-on-a-bike avatar and moved it on a 3D map from the school down the road past Lawson’s Bush to Hwy 8, and back again while a clock showed the advancing minutes up to the end of the window of possibilities.  I had avatars for all of the known child and adult witnesses and tried my best to place them in position according to the testimony they gave at the trial (some of which, of course, was contradictory).

It was very, very difficult to make the animation work out in Truscott’s favor.  There are too many people walking or biking to the creek or from the creek to the village to give space to Truscott’s version.

I am generally very sympathetic to claims of wrongful convictions. I surprised myself when, after reading more and more about the Truscott case, I started coming to the conclusion that this case doesn’t fit the classic mold of a wrongful conviction.

Here is an interesting analysis of some of Truscott’s comments on his own case by someone convinced of his guilt. Some of his observations can easily be discounted as interpretation of language. I don’t find it difficult to believe that Truscott would use language that sometimes sounds as if it is the expression of a person who knows he is guilty simply because he has psychologically absorbed something of the public perception of his guilt. What I do find interesting is the same thing the Supreme Court found interesting when he testified to them in 1966: he didn’t have a clear narrative that gave a convincing alternative to the police theory of the sequence of events. For example, he didn’t give any information about what he said to Lynne Harper after he dropped her off at the intersection. As the gentleman observes, didn’t she say anything to him about the ponies he says she was going to see, or about hitch-hiking, or about when she was coming back?

But then, is this evidence any more compelling than the almost uniform observation by all witnesses that Truscott appeared absolutely calm and undisturbed just minutes after he allegedly raped and murdered Lynne Harper? [added February 2009]

14-year-old Gordon Logan saw Truscott and Harper pass over the bridge on the the way to the highway. If he was telling the truth, Truscott was definitely innocent.

The police thought Truscott had somehow persuaded Logan to lie for him. But some accounts claim that Logan gave his evidence to police before Lynne’s body was even found.

Added 2024-03-26

In the book “Until You Are Dead” by Julian Sher, the author argues this:  Twelve-year-old Gord Logan told the police that he saw Truscott and Harper cross the bridge on the night of June 9, 1959, as did Douglas Oates.   If they were  speaking the truth, Steven Truscott is innocent.  That’s all there is to it.

Sher thinks Logan is telling the truth for this reason:  nobody, at the time Logan told this to the police, knew that Lynne Harper was dead and her body was lying in Lawson’s Bush just down the road.   Since nobody knew Harper was even dead,  Logan, a friend of Truscott’s, would not have believed Truscott needed an alibi   He had no reason to lie.  Truscott had no reason to ask him to lie.

But Sher is wrong.  If Truscott did murder Lynne Harper, he knew that he would be suspected because Arnold “Butch” George– known to be a liar in any case– had been going around saying that Truscott took Harper into the bush, and that Truscott had gone into the bush to look for calves.  And Truscott knew that Harper’s body was there, and that the town was frantically searching for her.   The last thing he would have wanted anyone to think was that he had had any reason to go into Lawson’s Bush.   It is not unlikely that he would have told Logan that he must have seen him as he crossed the bridge and Logan must have also seen him and Harper and Logan perhaps came to believe that he did.

Even though Butch George had a reputation for dishonesty, his comments would have certainly caused Truscott considerable anxiety because, intentionally or not, he might be telling the truth.

Sher’s argument does not survive this analysis.

This is all besides another critical question:  Logan was about 640 feet away from the bridge at the time (accounts differ).  Numerous other children were at the bridge, biking to the bridge or away from the bridge, below the bridge, and swimming in the river at the time.

Douglas Oates, on the other hand, was right on the bridge, very close to where Steven and Lynne passed– if he did– and not a close friend of Truscott’s.  To this day, he is adamant that he saw Steven and Lynne pass him on the bicycle.  He has been consistent and forthright about the question.  He is probably the best evidence of all in favor of Truscott’s innocence.  But if it is possible that others on the bridge and on the county road that night did not see Truscott and Harper pass by on the bike, one is faced with the fact that some of these witnesses are simply wrong about what they saw or didn’t see.   Is Philip Burns less convincing than Oates?  I’m not sure.

Sher expends considerable emphasis on the two boys who unambiguously stated that they saw Truscott and Harper cross the bridge on Harper’s bike.  He does not list the number of people on the bridge who, when asked, said they did not see them cross the bridge.  He accuses the police of giving disproportionate weight to these witnesses but I doubt that he is immune from the reciprocal accusation: that while emphasizing that Logan and Oates must be believed even though they were children, the other children (and at least one adult, Mrs. Geiger) should not be believed.  Logan commented that “you couldn’t miss” a kid on a bike with a girl on the handle bars going by.  If he’s right, then they should not have been missed by the others on the bridge that night, but they were.

Finally, the Judge’s charge to the jury was appallingly biased and nearly, at times, incoherent.  He clearly believed Truscott was guilty and tried to facilitate that verdict from the jury by slyly raising questions about testimony favorable to the defense, and even by proposing a ridiculous theory about Truscott and Lynne actually returning from Hwy 8 before he took her into the bush and murdered her (an idiocy even the prosecution avoided).   After an objection from defense counsel, he actually repeated the same mistake.  He told the jury that precise times were not important when, in fact, they were obviously crucial to both sides.  He implied that Gaudet and Philip Burns were more reliable witnesses than Logan and Oates.

More on the Testimonies.

More on the Case

Incidentally, Truscott was “analyzed” by various psychiatrists and psychologists in prison, at the behest of the authorities that badly wanted to validate the court verdict.  It is ridiculously clear that whatever Truscott did or said was what these quacks decided a murderer would do or say.  Does anyone doubt that if he had been nervous and anxious and easily angered, they would have ejaculated with excitement:  “Ah ha!  Sure signs of guilt!”.  But Truscott was consistently calm and self-possessed.  “Ah ha!  Sure signs of psychosis!  He is a cold, calculating monster, without a heart”.  Even at the trial, the judge remarked on how chilling he found Truscott because he was calm and self-assured.

If you have ever been mistakenly impressed with the field of psychology, you should carefully review the performance of those assigned to Truscott.  They radiate incompetence, selective judgement, bias, tunnel-vision, and a kind of psychotic desire to manipulate people.  In short, like everyone else, they are vain and self-serving, and conceal, behind a façade of magical totems and symbols, delusions of grandeur.

Did you know that Truscott was administered LSD by Doctor George Scott while he was in Collins Bay Penitentiary?  Scott appeared to be convinced that Steven was guilty and was hoping to persuade him to remember murdering Harper.  Yes, that passed for psychiatry at the time.

Simon Zealotes in Jesus Christ Superstar

There was an incomprehensible remake of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 2000. I rather liked “King Herod’s Song” in the new version. I haven’t see much of the rest of it. I did see “Simon Zealotes” or George Bush in the desert in the new version and it sucked. Jesus acts like he just discovered that some people can be fanatical. Simon Zealotes sounds more like a killer than a fanatic. He lost all the charm of fanaticism.

I loved the original version of this song, in the 1972 movie. For many years it was, with some qualification, my favorite 3 or 4 minutes of film.

Simon and his followers appear from nowhere and surround Jesus, and Simon Zealotes, played magnificently by Larry Marshall, tells Jesus that he now has the opportunity to rally his followers and lead a military insurrection against the Romans. He tempts him with power and glory, and advises him to “keep them yelling their devotion, but add a touch of hate at Rome”. His people will win themselves a home, and Jesus will be remembered forever. Simon’s followers dance frenetically throughout this scene, and it is clear that Jewison staged the dance over and over and over again until the dancers were exhausted– in the last few cuts you can see them flailing about and sweating and losing equilibrium as they try to move faster and faster. Judas (Carl Anderson) watches from a distance, disturbed.

By the way, no, the music and singing was not recorded during filming. It was recorded in a studio in England. The singing that you hear is not coming from the dancers on the screen.

It’s a brilliant scene– all the more brilliant for Rice’s remarkable insights into Christ’s response: he tells Simon that he doesn’t understand power or glory, and that, to conquer death, you only have to die.

At the time the movie came out, I took Simon Zealotes to be a leftist revolutionary, promising political and social paradise to his deluded followers, ready, in chapter 2, to become a fat, corrupt King Herod. And he probably was meant to be a Che Guevara type. Today, you might just as well take him for George Bush: with a complete and utterly foolish belief in the power of force to bring lasting peace and justice. But in George Bush’s version, Jesus does grab a Kalashnikov and joins the gang.

I liked the original version much better than the TV movie version released in 2000. Not surprising, really: the original was made by Norman Jewison. And Larry Marshall (Simon Zealotes) is fabulous. Not everyone can take him. I’ve seen ridiculous comments on Youtube about how he looks like “an ape”. Would you have preferred Danny Bonaduce? Or Barry Gibb? Some people confuse art with tranquilizers.

I think he is absolutely hysterically beautiful.

Somewhere in the desert in Iraq, George Bush isn’t dancing anymore. He continues to wave his Kalashnikov. He still thinks he can stop the pagans with bullets and technology and Burger Kings and Walmarts. And the girl in the tight brown pants kicks her leg up so high you want to jump into the air with her and twirl and sweat and scream and keep yelling your devotion.

One of the things I loved about the original version: there is a girl in an orange skirt with short brown hair. As the camera pans over the group near the end of “Simon Zealotes”, she moves out from behind another dancer, without even looking up: here I am.  Obviously, the dancer, the fanatical follower of Simon Zealotes, is not supposed to be “aware” of a camera.  And that is exactly what I found quietly endearing about that moment: just a quick, discrete flash of the dancer’s ego, which she accomplished without even seeming to look up.

Another girl wearing low-cut slacks tugs on them several times, after executing a high leg kick. Why? Were they falling down? I can’t tell you why but I didn’t mind the girl in the orange dress. There was something charming about that moment of vanity. But I was annoyed with the other girl: a true zealot wouldn’t have cared if her butt-crack was showing or even if her pants had fallen down.

It hurt the illusion of the film because unlike the girl in the orange dress, it was gesture of concealment rather than exposure.

The actor playing Jesus, Ted Neely , married the girl in the brown tights.

Cape Buffalo Taser

There is a famous video on Youtube of an amazing encounter between a herd of cape buffalo and a group of lions in Kruger National Park in South Africa. You’ve probably seen it. A herd of unaware cape buffalo are strolling along a river bank towards several lions lying in the grass snoozing. The lions wake up, smell lunch coming, and approach the buffalo. The buffalo become a little tentative, pawing and snorting, until the lions make their move. The buffalo turn to flee but the lions pick out a juvenile and tackle him on the fly and roll him into the river. While five lions try to drag the wailing buffalo onto dry land, two crocodiles suddenly emerge from the surface of the water and a ridiculous, horrifying tug-of-war ensues. The lions eventually prevail, but just as they are getting ready to dine, lo and behold, the herd of buffalo return, shyly, teasingly. Individuals charge forward, change their minds, and return to the herd. Finally a bold one or two take a run at the lions. One of them actually flips a lioness into the air. She flees, and as the adult buffalo close in, one by one, the other lions abandon their meal. Miraculously, the juvenile has survived and runs back to the protection of the herd.

There is another video on youtube of a herd of students listening to John Kerry speak. Some security guards are nearby, dozing. One student boldly asks a difficult question. You can hear that he has become emotional– bad move. The security guards move in and try to remove him from the herd. And the rest of the herd sits on their hands and does nothing, except for one young woman who screams at the guards. The crocodiles join in and hold the boy down while the security guards taser him several times. The herd does nothing. The herd sits on their hands. That’s nature. Survival of the strong. Fortunately, some tourists were there at the time to capture this exciting moment of American democracy in action.