De omnibus dubitandum
22 May 2012
Recently some alarming facts about justice and imprisonment in the USA have been highlighted. These facts are not new discoveries as such, but worryingly few people know about them.
First there’s this study about wrongful convictions in the USA, which paints a pretty grim picture of the American justice system:
“The US criminal justice system is a broken machine that wrongfully convicts innocent people, sentencing thousands of people to prison or to death for the crimes of others, as a new study reveals. The University of Michigan law school and Northwestern University have compiled a new National Registry of Exonerations – a database of over 2,000 prisoners exonerated between 1989 and the present day, when DNA evidence has been widely used to clear the names of innocent people convicted of rape and murder.”
The fact that thousands of Americans are jailed for crimes they did not commit is not particularly surprising, if viewed in the larger context of the country’s highly profitable private prison system:
“In the past few decades, changes in sentencing laws and get-tough-on-crime policies have led to an explosion in America’s prison population. Funding this incarceration binge has been an enormous drain on taxpayer dollars, with some states now spending more to lock up their citizens than to provide their children with education. It’s difficult to spin anything positive out of that scenario, but as it turns out, even this blackest of clouds has a silver lining – silver as in dollars, that is, for the private prison industry.
In 2010, two of the largest private prison companies in America, GEO Group, Inc and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) generated over $4bn dollars in profit between them.”
Both these articles are just scratching the surface of this deeply worrying trend in many western democracies to impose ever-stricter sentences on minor crimes, and to utilise the resulting prison population for capitalist gain.
In effect this is a new form of slavery, aimed at imprisoning as many of the lowest echelons of our society in order to use them as involuntary cheap labour. It’s a new way to maximise corporate profits through exploitation of the lower classes, as these will be the most likely to serve extensive prison terms for often minor crimes.
As we all know, rich men can pillage and loot for billions and get away with a slap on the wrist, while the poor serve decades in prison for petty theft. Our justice systems are not blind, we are not treated equally under the law. The more money you have – i.e. the higher your social class – the lower the punishment for your transgressions, if there is any punishment at all.
We see the same unsavoury trends beginning to take shape here in the UK. This form of government-approved corporate slavery is among the worst excesses of capitalist greed, and it should be resisted at every step.
26 Aug 2009
As you probably know by now, Scotland has released the man convicted of the Lockerbie-bombing on ‘compassionate grounds’.
Without delving in to the debate of whether he’s actually guilty (there are strong reasons to suspect he was innocent), the facts are simple: Al-Megrahi is dying of cancer, and Scottish law has a rule about terminally ill convicts. Al-Megrahi’s release is simply an adherence to this rule.
A very commendable rule, in my opinion. Justice, you see, is not about revenge, no matter how many Americans seem to confuse these two concepts. Justice is about protecting society and rehabilitating offenders. It’s not about “an eye for an eye” or other equally medieval mantras.
Scotland has done a brave thing. They’ve adhered to their own rules, their own concept of justice, regardless of what the Big Bully on the block has to say about it. They’ve stood up for what they believe in, and I admire that.
What I do have a problem with is the hero’s welcome Al-Megrahi received in Libya. Not a very subtle move, and a bit of a “fuck you” towards the West.
I’m looking forward to Al-Megrahi’s side of the story which, with the appeal dropped, he is now free to tell. A shallow scan of the Lockerbie trial shows the prosecution’s case leaned heavily on a single eyewitness account to confirm a fragile link between Al-Megrahi and the explosive device that caused the disaster.
And we already know how notoriously unreliable eyewitnesses are.
23 Jun 2009
As should be no surprise to any well-thinking individual, European cities dominate the list. Massively so. The numbers 1, 2 and 3 are European, with seven European cities in the top 10 and a total of seventeen in the top 30.
The first American city on the list is Honolulu at number 29. Arguably one of the least American cities that is technically a part of the United States.
Additional hilarity is caused by number 30 – San Francisco, the USA’s second contribution to the list. You know, that liberal city with its abundance of gayness and alternative lifestyles. A city nearly universally despised by its own country.
And the cherry on the cake is the city that ranks last on the list, i.e. the Worst Place in the World to live. It’s a city that has obviously benefited so much from its ‘liberation’ at the hands of the Americans: Baghdad.
29 Oct 2008
A right-wing pundit with a pole up his ass the size of the Eiffel tower is complaining that an Obama presidency would result in the “Europeanization of America.” Which he seems to conclude is a Very Bad Thing.
Yes, it must be bad for America to start looking more like Europe, because Europe is this dreadful part of the world where people have lower standards of living, a lower life expectancy, more crime, and less happiness.
Actually, America’s standards of living are lower. On the December 2008 UN Human Development Index, the USA ranked 15th on standards of living. 11 European countries precede it on the list.
Life expectancy in the USA is a few years shorter than in Europe. On the World Life Expectancy chart the USA ranks 27th. Nineteen European countries are ranked higher.
Crime rates are generally much higher in the USA than in most western European nations, with significantly higher murder and assault rates per capita.
A 2006 study aimed at creating a world map of happiness showed that the top four happiest countries in the world are all in Europe, with 11 European nations ranked in the top 20. The USA ranked 23rd.
Yes, the Europeanization of America would be a bad thing. We wouldn’t want the USA to become civilized, would we?
3 Jan 2008
The fact that Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are the primary Republican candidates for the presidential election is really such a powerful statement about the state of the Republican party and US politics in general, that you really can’t make a joke about it that surpasses reality in outrageousness and insanity.
Well, I suppose a joke with Ayatollah Khomeini as the punchline would come close. But only just.
2 Feb 2007
And they wonder why we think they’re all a bunch of morons over there.
4 Sep 2006
I hate flying. It’s not that I’m afraid of it – contrary to the idiotic masses of humankind I’m not particularly intimidated or brainwashed by fear mongering authorities and rating-craving media channels. If one plane fell out of the sky every fucking week I’d still merrily get on one, since it’d still be infinitely safer than getting in my car and driving to work.
No, I hate flying because it’s cramped, noisy and mind-retardingly boring. I’m a big fellow and airplane seats are fit to spec for smurfs. When I manage to ignore the screeching engines, wailing children, snoring elderly and bitching flight attendants, I’m still faced with the task of entertaining myself for eight hours straight strapped into a tight seat with a jittery screen ten rows ahead featuring whatever passes for inflight entertainment. Four hours I can manage – eight hours is a stretch.
Not to mention having to deal with airports. An airport is a focal point of the typically human concept of waiting. An airport is a place where you go from waiting for one thing to waiting for the next. It’s a succession of waiting experiences. You wait to check in. You wait to pass security. You wait for boarding. You wait for take off. You wait for landing. You wait for unboarding. You wait to pass customs. You wait to get your goddamn luggage. You wait to get your connecting flight. You wait and wait and wait until waiting itself seems to be the whole fucking purpose of existence.
Airports do their best to make you forget that you’re nothing but human cattle waiting to be shipped out, but it’s all commercially inspired. Ridiculously overpriced stores try to sell you shit you know you don’t need but you still feel urged to buy just because it distracts your attention from having to wait. Flatscreen TV’s show you Fox ‘news’ channels that specialize in terror-stories intended to scare your fucking wits out so you’ll happily comply with a body cavity search by a fat black woman in a crumpled uniform who always picks well-dressed white men out of the security queue. Airline personnel kindly remind you how happy they are that you chose to fly with their airline because they realize you do have a choice, but I don’t really have a fucking choice because my company selected the cheapest fucking airline they could find so I’m stuck with the smallest seats, the crappiest inflight food, the worst inflight entertainment and a collection of ridiculously gay or 50-year old flight attendants (or both!) who couldn’t get a paying job at a proper airline!
So yes, I hate flying.