The Scales of Justice

In these regressive times, it’s a pleasure to find something progressive, especially from a source as unlikely as PG&E. They’ve announced this year’s California Climate Credits of $29.38 and $39.42 to be applied to all customers’ gas and electric bills, respectively, whether they live in enormous mansions or efficiency apartments. My apartment is not hooked up for gas, and the electricity credit is 125% of last month’s bill.

My only brush with the military justice system was in 1964 when I was an Army Security Agency 2nd Lt. at the USASA headquarters in Frankfurt.  I was in my office minding my own business one day when one of my men asked me if I’d play the role of defense in an upcoming dishonorable discharge trial for one of the men in their housing company.   My guy had to ask me because the soldier in question was not ASA and couldn’t come into our secure area.

Of course I said yes since I was so gung ho that I wanted fulfill my duties to the utmost; but it turned out to a bit nightmarish because, when I started digging into the whole thing, I learned that he’d committed more offenses than the prosecution had discovered, that he was utterly deserving of a dishonorable discharge, and that he’d been lying to me just like he did to everyone else.  Furthermore, he had obviously come to me rather than to one of the lieutenants in the housing company because nobody who knew him would have been willing to defend him.

Even so, my duty was to defend this scumbag to my utmost ability, and, as I dug around and talked to more experienced officers, one of them pointed out a little loophole in the Uniform Code of Military Justice through which the accused could slither.  Actually, it was a gaping void.  But to make sure, I gathered as much extenuating evidence as possible.

So come the trial, I began my defense by quoting the UCMJ to the panel of officers and stated that it was clear that the line in question perfectly applied to Droopy (his nickname among the other soldiers because he was).  This set them back on their heels because it was pretty clear to me that they thought I was right.

But yet, they didn’t throw the case out but rather shut the whole works down for the morning to resume after lunch.  The previous year Droopy had been acquitted in a similar trial because a verdict had not been suggested to the panel of officers and because his defense lieutenant then was brilliant and indefatigable and was able to round up believable character witnesses for the guy. 

What my panel did during the break was take the UCMJ line I’d found to the folks who’d suggested they convict and were informed that in this case the UCMJ didn’t apply because this man was so loathsome that his removal was imperative….or something like that. So they ruled against me and I continued my prepared defense, but I’d scraped the whole damn post without finding anyone over the rank of E3 willing to stick his neck out for Droopy.  Word had spread.

Of course I appealed, and that, of course, was denied.

My disappointment over losing the appeal was mitigated by knowing that Droopy was worse than worthless, but I was also a bit disillusioned to see a large olive drab thumb on the scales of justice.

Meanwhile, when I took this shot beside the new Transbay Terminal, I was thinking it was some kind of prehistoric Pterodactyllian creature.  Then I looked closer and realized it was a flying bat skeleton with wings.  That’s Droopy trying to escape. Didn’t.

A bat out of hell

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