Ruminations : Things That Matter, Things That Don’t

Well folks, this week we have war, Frank R. James and John Peel to discuss. Not necessarily in that order. These ruminations were sparked by things that keep circling in my brain. And, given the obsessions of this blog, I think we’ll start with Frank James. Not to be confused with his doppelganger from the Wild West, tempting though it may be.

I’ve written about mass murderers before. Thankfully, Frank James does not qualify. Not yet at least (and I’m hoping he never does). But there’s one sentence in the linked post that calls out to me: “The more specific the target… the less likely that their rage stems from psychosis or some other brain altering condition.” James’ targets on the N Train were not specific. Not at all. Draw your own conclusions. Hint: reverse the order of “more” and “less.” PS: I watched some of his videos. He is, um, a little off.

Photo Montage courtesy NYPD

Is He Tall?

It’s worth mentioning that the early descriptions of the man were wrong. You know, the ones that said he was about “five-foot-five” and heavy set. Come to find out he’s more like six-feet tall. And heavy set.

So here’s the deal: he was sitting down in a subway car. In that posture, height is more a concept than a reality. Weight, on the other hand, can show up in any posture. Second — and it’s almost cliche by now — if you’ve ever ridden the NYC subway, you know there are strange people. And that the rule of the road is to ignore them. To avoid eye contact.

And, of course, most folks experience crime in the moment. If they’d only known what he was about to do… He would have been five-foot-nine for sure.

Ruminations On War Crimes

There is much talk about a war crimes tribunal associated with the war in Ukraine. I’ll leave the ruminations on the likelihood of that happening to others (although Russia is not a member of the International War Crimes Tribunal, so there’s that).

What I can day, though, is that in 1999 I spent several days at a War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Specifically, I observed the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Because, you know, breaking up is hard to do. In this case, there were competent allegations of ethnic cleansing within the country’s borders. The man on trial, General Tihomir Blascik, was a Croat. The ethnic cleansing charges involved the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Blascik’s theater of operations.

At the time of the trial, Blascik insisted that, though there were brigades attached to him, he did not command them and had no right to discipline them. They had multiple masters. That was, frankly, a confusing argument. But this conflict wasn’t exactly… a Conventional War. This was tribe against tribe. The Bosnian Muslims were encircled and isolated. Communications were fraught. The Bosnian Muslims were trapped. Yes, it was ethnic cleansing.

Tihomir Blascik in The Hague
(courtesy SENSE)

In 2000 Blascik was sentenced to 45 years of prison for his part in the war. On appeal in 2004, it was judged that his command responsibility for most of the charges was non-existent. His sentence was reduced to nine years imprisonment. He was released.

It has always been difficult to explain why soldiers commit atrocities, or to describe how the orders of commanders, military culture, national propaganda, battlefield frustration and individual malice can come together to produce such horrors.

NYT, Atrocities In Ukraine Have Deep Roots In Russian Military, April 17, 2022

Such is the chaos of war. Or, as my Yugoslavian ruminations remind me, a civil war in a country that was a fiction created by a strongman (Tito). Oh, and by the way… The Croats got their own county out of the deal. Is history written by the winners?

A John Peel Tidbit

I recently came across a tidbit that I had somehow missed in my What Happened in Craig research. It seems negligible, but then again, there’s a “why? really?” It’s all about one of the final prosecution witnesses, who testified to a curiosity. It wasn’t about what was there. It was about what wasn’t there. Now those are some ruminations.

John Peel (courtesy Hall Anderson)

A manager at Bellingham’s Chris-Craft boat factory, where Peel worked at the time he was arrested in 1984, testified that Peel’s resume showed he never worked in southeast Alaska during the summer of 1982, when the Investor crew was killed.

ADN, August 1986

To be honest, in 1982 John Peel had one of the lousiest fishing seasons ever. As in, he hardly made any money. His boat was old. It broke down often. He probably made more money selling pot than selling fish. Yeah, definitely not resume material.


Order “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE. True crime from Epicenter Press.

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