By Chris Hedges
If you are poor, you will almost never go to trial—instead you will be forced to accept a plea deal offered by government prosecutors. If you are poor, the word of the police, who are not averse to fabricating or tampering with evidence, manipulating witnesses and planting guns or drugs, will be accepted in a courtroom as if it was the word of God. If you are poor, and especially if you are of color, almost anyone who can verify your innocence will have a police record of some kind and thereby will be invalidated as a witness. If you are poor, you will be railroaded in an assembly-line production, from a town or city where there are no jobs, through the police stations, county jails and courts directly into prison. And if you are poor, because you don’t have money for adequate legal defense, you will serve sentences that are decades longer than those for equivalent crimes anywhere else in the industrialized world.
If you are a poor person of color in America you understand this with a visceral fear. You have no chance. Being poor has become a crime. And this makes mass incarceration the most pressing civil rights issue of our era.
The 10-part online documentary “Making a Murderer,” by writer-directors Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, chronicles the endemic corruption of the judicial system. The film focuses on the case of Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, who were given life sentences for murder without any tangible evidence linking them to the crime. As admirable as the documentary was, however, it focused on a case where the main defendant, Avery, had competent defense. He was also white. The blatant corruption of, and probable conspiracy by, the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin and then-Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz is nothing compared with what goes on in the well-oiled and deeply cynical system in place in inner-city courts. The accused in poor urban centers are lined up daily like sheep in a chute and shipped to prison with a startling alacrity. The attempts by those who put Avery and Dassey behind bars to vilify them further after the release of the film misses the point: The two men, like most of the rest of the poor behind bars in the United States, did not receive a fair trial. Whether they did or did not murder Teresa Halbach—and the film makes a strong case that they did not—is a moot point.Once you are charged in America, whether you did the crime or not, you are almost always found guilty. Because of this, as many activists have discovered, the courts already are being used as a fundamental weapon of repression, and this abuse will explode in size should there be widespread unrest and dissent. Our civil liberties have been transformed into privileges—what Matt Taibbi in “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap” calls “conditional rights and conditional citizenship”—that are, especially in poor communities, routinely revoked. Once rights become privileges, none of us are safe.
In any totalitarian society, including an American society ruled by its own species of inverted totalitarianism, the state invests tremendous amounts of energy into making the judicial system appear as if it functions impartially. And the harsher the totalitarian system becomes, the more effort it puts into disclaiming its identity. The Nazis, as did the Soviet Union under Stalin, broke the accused down in grueling and psychologically crippling interrogations—much the same way the hapless and confused Dassey is manipulated and lied to by interrogators in the film—to make them sign false confessions. Totalitarian states need the facade of justice to keep the public passive.
The Guardian newspaper reported: “The Innocence Project has kept detailed records on the 337 cases across the [United States] where prisoners have been exonerated as a result of DNA testing since 1989. The group’s researchers found that false confessions were made in 28 percent of all the DNA-related exonerations, a striking proportion in itself. But when you look only at homicide convictions—by definition the most serious cases—false confessions are the leading cause of miscarriages of justice, accounting for a full 63% of the 113 exonerations.”
“[T]he interrogator-butcher isn’t interested in logic,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn writes in “The Gulag Archipelago,” “he just wants to catch two or three phrases. He knows what he wants. And as for us—we are totally unprepared for anything. From childhood on we are educated and trained—for our own profession; for our civil duties; for military service; to take care of our bodily needs; to behave well; even to appreciate beauty (well, this last not really all that much!). But neither our education, nor our upbringing, nor our experience prepares us in the slightest for the greatest trial of our lives: being arrested for nothing and interrogated about nothing.”
If the illusion of justice is shattered, the credibility and viability of the state are jeopardized. The spectacle of court, its solemnity and stately courthouses, its legal rituals and language, is part of the theater. The press, as was seen in the film, serves as an echo machine for the state, condemning the accused before he or she begins trial. Television shows and movies about crime investigators and the hunt for killers and terrorists feed the fictitious narrative. The reality is that almost no one who is imprisoned in America has gotten a trial. There is rarely an impartial investigation. A staggering 97 percent of all federal cases and 95 percent of all state felony cases are resolved through plea bargaining. Of the 2.2 million people we have incarcerated at the moment—25 percent of the world’s prison population—2 million never had a trial. And significant percentages of them are innocent.
Judge Jed S. Rakoff in an article in The New York Review of Books titled “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty” explains how this secretive plea system works to thwart justice. Close to 40 percent of those eventually exonerated of their crimes originally pleaded guilty, usually in an effort to reduce charges that would have resulted in much longer prison sentences if the cases had gone to trial. The students I teach in prison who have the longest sentences are usually the ones who demanded a trial. Many of them went to trial because they did not commit the crime. But if you go to trial you cannot bargain away any of the charges against you in exchange for a shorter sentence. The public defender—who spends no more than a few minutes reviewing the case and has neither the time nor the inclination to do the work required by a trial—uses the prospect of the harshest sentence possible to frighten the client into taking a plea deal. And, as depicted in “Making a Murderer,” prosecutors and defense attorneys often work as a tag team to force the accused to plead guilty. If all of the accused went to trial, the judicial system, which is designed around plea agreements, would collapse. And this is why trial sentences are horrific. It is why public attorneys routinely urge their clients to accept a plea arrangement. Trials are a flashing red light to the accused: DO NOT DO THIS. It is the inversion of justice.
The wrongly accused and their families, as long as the fiction of justice is maintained, vainly seek redress. They file appeal after appeal. Those convicted devote hundreds of hours of study in the law library in prison. They believe there has been a “mistake.” They think that if they are patient the “mistake” will be rectified. Playing upon such gullibility, authorities allowed prisoners in Stalin’s gulags to write petitions twice a month to officials to proclaim their innocence or decry mistreatment. Those who do not understand the American system, who are not mentally prepared for its cruelty and violence, are largely helpless before authorities intoxicated with the godlike power to destroy lives. These authorities advance themselves or their agendas—Joe Biden when he was in the Senate and Bill Clinton when he was president did this—by being “tough” concerning law and order and national security. Those who administer the legal system wield power largely in secret. They are accountable to no one. Every once in a while—this happened even under the Nazis and Stalin—someone will be exonerated to maintain the fiction that the state is capable of rectifying its “mistakes.” But the longer the system remains in place, the longer the legal process is shrouded from public view, the more the crime by the state accelerates.
The power elites—our corporate rulers and the security and surveillance apparatus—rewrite laws to make their criminal behavior “legal.” It is a two-tiered system. One set of laws for us. Another set of laws for them. Wall Street’s fraud and looting of the U.S. Treasury, the obliteration of our privacy, the ability of the government to assassinate U.S. citizens, the revoking of habeas corpus, the neutralizing of our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the murder of unarmed people in the streets of our cities by militarized police, the use of torture, the criminalizing of dissent, the collapse of our court system, the waging of pre-emptive war are rendered “legal.” Politicians, legislators, lawyers and law enforcement officials, who understand that leniency and justice are damaging to their careers, and whom Karl Marx called the “leeches on the capitalist structure,” have constructed for their corporate masters our system of inverted totalitarianism. They serve this system. They seek to advance within it. They do not blink at the victims destroyed by it. And most of them know it is a sham.
“We have to condemn publicly the very idea that some people have the right to repress others,” Solzhenitsyn warned. “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”
In 2008, before the climate summit in Copenhagen, I wrote the book Soil Not Oil. It was a time when the intimate connections between climate and agriculture, air and soil were not being recognised in any forum, neither in the negotiations on climate change nor in the climate movement. As we head into the Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 in Paris, agri-corporations are attempting to hijack climate talks once again.
Today we are faced with two crises on a planetary scale — climate change and species extinction. Our current modes of production and consumption are contributing to what climate change scientists term anthropogenic emissions — originating from human activity. If no action is taken to reduce greenhouse gases, we could experience a catastrophic 4°C increase in temperature by the end of the century.
In addition to global warming, climate change is leading to the intensification of droughts, floods, cyclones and other extreme weather events that are costing lives. What can we do to mitigate this? Like the problem, the solution must be anthropogenic.
Three years after Rio (1992), the United Nations Leipzig Conference on Plant Genetic Resources assessed that 75 per cent of the world’s biodiversity had disappeared in agriculture because of the Green Revolution and industrial farming. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that 70-90 per cent of global deforestation is due to industrial agriculture pushing its monocultures further and further into forests to grow commodities for export — not for food.
As I wrote in Soil Not Oil, chemical agriculture and a globalised food system are responsible for 40 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. A grain.org report concluded that “the current global food system, propelled by an increasingly powerful transnational food industry, is responsible for about half of all human produced greenhouse gas emissions: anywhere between a low of 44 per cent to a high of 57 per cent”.
This is also where the Gates Foundation, along with the other biotech evangelists of our times, has it completely wrong. Climate-smart agriculture and “One Agriculture”, packaged in a PR bubble, will starve the world and worsen the refugee crisis. The Gates Foundation, pretending to feed the world, is propagating the very source of half the climate problem.
“One Agriculture”, for the profit of one company, is hardly a mitigation strategy. The Gates Foundation is pushing industrial agriculture, instead of agroecology which is already helping check climate change by converting fossilised carbon to green carbon. The accurate word for Bill Gates’ faux philanthropy would be “fail anthropy”.
As country after country bans the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), India has turned into the last battleground for GMO patent profits. Bt technology, the star of Monsanto’s multi-million dollar R&D (fully paid for by Indian cotton farmers), has been known to be a failure in terms of yield and pest control since its beginning in India, illegally, in 1999. In addition to the historic failure of Bt cotton at raising farmers’ incomes, or producing more yield, the ancillary chemicals required by GMO varieties are also, quite clearly, failing. Bayer CropSciences’ oberon, a pesticide that supposedly targets whitefly, has failed at its one purpose, causing a 60 per cent crop failure in Punjab’s cotton crop this year. The chemicals have failed the GMO. The GMO has failed in itself. Our government has failed our farmers by backing failed technologies that have only been successful in driving India’s farmers to suicide.
Biodiverse systems are more resilient to climate change and are more productive in terms of nutrition per acre. Feeding the world is more about providing nourishment than about harvesting commodities to be traded and shipped globally, adding to emissions. Decentralised, diverse systems have more flexibility to respond to uncertainty as well.
Science and democracy are the forces that will protect the planet and our lives. Since 1992, the big polluters — the fossil fuel industry and the agrochemical industry (now also the biotechnology industry) — have done everything to subvert the legally binding, science-based, international environmental treaties on climate change and biodiversity.
What needs to be done is clear. In the case of climate change, the key strategy should be reduction of emissions and strategies for adaptation. We must move away from industrial, chemical-intensive agriculture, away from a centralised, global commodity-based food system that exacerbates emissions. Biodiversity conservation will be central to adaptation. In place of the biodiversity-destroying industrial monocultures, including those based on GMO seeds, we need a shift to agroecological practices that conserve biodiversity and ensure biosafety.
This transition will address both, the climate and biodiversity crisis simultaneously, as well as the food crisis. Even though industrial agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and more vulnerable to it, there is an attempt by the biotechnology industry to use the climate crisis as an opportunity to further push GMOs and to deepen their monopoly on global seed supply through biopiracy-based patents on climate resilient seeds, that were bred by farmers over generations. Climate resilient traits will become increasingly important in times of climate instability and, in the current system, will allow corporations to exploit farmers and consumers by owning the rights to these plants.
As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. Centralised, monoculture-based, fossil fuel intensive systems, including GMO agriculture, are not flexible. They cannot adapt and evolve. We need flexibility, resilience and the ability to adapt to a changed reality. This resilience comes from diversity. This diversity of knowledge, economics and politics is what I call earth democracy.
As we head into the COP 21 negotiations, not only do we have to beat our fossil fuel addiction, but also our addiction to failure. Failure is no longer an option. We cannot fail the Earth, or each other.
© 2015 The Asian Age
Fukushima’s still radiating, self-perpetuating, immeasurable, and limitless, like a horrible incorrigible Doctor Who monster encounter in deep space.
Fukushima will likely go down in history as the biggest cover-up of the 21st Century. Governments and corporations are not leveling with citizens about the risks and dangers; similarly, truth itself, as an ethical standard, is at risk of going to shambles as the glue that holds together the trust and belief in society’s institutions. Ultimately, this is an example of how societies fail.
Tens of thousands of Fukushima residents remain in temporary housing more than four years after the horrific disaster of March 2011. Some areas on the outskirts of Fukushima have officially reopened to former residents, but many of those former residents are reluctant to return home because of widespread distrust of government claims that it is okay and safe.
Part of this reluctance has to do with radiation’s symptoms. It is insidious because it cannot be detected by human senses. People are not biologically equipped to feel its power, or see, or hear, touch or smell it (Caldicott). Not only that, it slowly accumulates over time in a dastardly fashion that serves to hide its effects until it is too late.
Chernobyl’s Destruction Mirrors Fukushima’s Future
As an example of how media fails to deal with disaster blowback, here are some Chernobyl facts that have not received enough widespread news coverage: Over one million (1,000,000) people have already died from Chernobyl’s fallout.
Additionally, the Rechitsa Orphanage in Belarus has been caring for a very large population of deathly sick and deformed children. Children are 10 to 20 times more sensitive to radiation than adults.
Zhuravichi Children’s Home is another institution, among many, for the Chernobyl-stricken: “The home is hidden deep in the countryside and, even today, the majority of people in Belarus are not aware of the existence of such institutions” (Source: Chernobyl Children’s Project-UK).
One million (1,000,000) is a lot of dead people. But, how many more will die? Approximately seven million (7,000,000) people in the Chernobyl vicinity were hit with one of the most potent exposures to radiation in the history of the Atomic Age.
The exclusion zone around Chernobyl is known as “Death Valley.” It has been increased from 30 to 70 square kilometres. No humans will ever be able to live in the zone again. It is a permanent “dead zone.”
Additionally, over 25,000 died and 70,000 disabled because of exposure to extremely dangerous levels of radiation in order to help contain Chernobyl. Twenty percent of those deaths were suicides, as the slow agonizing “death march of radiation exposure” was too much to endure.
Fukushima- The Real Story
In late 2014, Helen Caldicott, M.D. gave a speech about Fukushima at Seattle Town Hall (9/28/14). Pirate Television recorded her speech; here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qX-YU4nq-g
Dr. Helen Caldicott is co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and she is author/editor of Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe, The New Press, September 2014. For over four decades Dr. Caldicott has been the embodiment of the anti-nuclear banner, and as such, many people around the world classify her as a “national treasure”. She’s truthful and honest and knowledgeable.
Fukushima is literally a time bomb in quiescence. Another powerful quake and all hell could break loose. Also, it is not even close to being under control. Rather, it is totally out of control. According to Dr. Caldicott, “It’s still possible that Tokyo may have to be evacuated, depending upon how things go.” Imagine that!
According to Japan Times as of March 11, 2015: “There have been quite a few accidents and problems at the Fukushima plant in the past year, and we need to face the reality that they are causing anxiety and anger among people in Fukushima, as explained by Shunichi Tanaka at the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Furthermore, Mr. Tanaka said, there are numerous risks that could cause various accidents and problems.”
Even more ominously, Seiichi Mizuno, a former member of Japan’s House of Councillors (Upper House of Parliament, 1995-2001) in March 2015 said: “The biggest problem is the melt-through of reactor cores… We have groundwater contamination… The idea that the contaminated water is somehow blocked in the harbor is especially absurd. It is leaking directly into the ocean. There’s evidence of more than 40 known hotspot areas where extremely contaminated water is flowing directly into the ocean… We face huge problems with no prospect of solution.” (Source: Nuclear Hotseat #194: Fukushima 4th Anniversary – Voices from Japan, March 10, 2015, http://www.nuclearhotseat.com/2468/)
At Fukushima, each reactor required one million gallons of water per minute for cooling, but when the tsunami hit, the backup diesel generators were drowned. Units 1, 2, and 3 had meltdowns within days. There were four hydrogen explosions. Thereafter, the melting cores burrowed into the container vessels, maybe into the earth.
According to Dr. Caldicott, “One hundred tons of terribly hot radioactive lava has already gone into the earth or somewhere within the container vessels, which are all cracked and broken.” Nobody really knows for sure where the hot radioactive lava resides. The scary unanswered question: Is it the China Syndrome?
Following the meltdown, the Japanese government did not inform people of the ambient levels of radiation that blew back onto the island. Unfortunately and mistakenly, people fled away from the reactors to the highest radiation levels on the island at the time.
As the disaster happened, enormous levels of radiation hit Tokyo. The highest radiation detected in the Tokyo Metro area was in Saitama with cesium radiation levels detected at 919,000 becquerel (Bq) per square meter, a level almost twice as high as Chernobyl’s “permanent dead zone evacuation limit of 500,000 Bq” (source: Radiation Defense Project). For that reason, Dr. Caldicott strongly advises against travel to Japan and recommends avoiding Japanese food.
Even so, post the Fukushima disaster, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed an agreement with Japan that the U.S. would continue importing Japanese foodstuff. Therefore, Dr. Caldicott suggests people not vote for Hillary Clinton. One reckless dangerous precedent is enough for her.
According to Arnie Gundersen, an energy advisor with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, as reported in The Canadian on August 15, 2011: “The US government has come up with a decision at the highest levels of the State Department, as well as other departments who made a decision to downplay Fukushima. In April, the month after the powerful tsunami and earthquake crippled Japan including its nuclear power plant, Hillary Clinton signed a pact with Japan that she agreed there is no problem with Japanese food supply and we will continue to buy them. So, we are not sampling food coming in from Japan.”
However, in stark contrast to the United States, in Europe Angela Merkel, PhD physics, University of Leipzig and current chancellor of Germany is shutting down all nuclear reactors because of Fukushima.
Maybe an advanced degree in physics makes the difference in how a leader approaches the nuclear power issue. It certainly looks that way when comparing/contrasting the two pantsuit-wearing leaders, Chancellor Merkel and former secretary of state Clinton.
After the Fukushima blow up, ambient levels of radiation in Washington State went up 40,000 times above normal, but according to Dr. Caldicott, the U.S. media does not cover the “ongoing Fukushima mess.” So, who would really know?
Dr. Caldicott ended her speech on Sept. 2014 by saying: “In Fukushima, it is not over. Everyday, four hundred tons of highly radioactive water pours into the Pacific and heads towards the U.S. Because the radiation accumulates in fish, we get that too. The U.S. government is not testing the water, not testing the fish, and not testing the ambient air. Also, people in Japan are eating radiation every day.”
Furthermore, according to Dr. Caldicott: “Rainwater washes over the nuclear cores into the Pacific. There is no way they can get to those cores, men die, robots get fried. Fukushima will never be solved. Meanwhile, people are still living in highly radioactive areas.”
Fukushima will never be solved because “men die” and “robots get fried.” By the sounds of it, Fukushima is a perpetual radiation meltdown scenario that literally sets on the edge of a bottomless doomsday pit, in waiting to be nudged over.
UN All-Clear Report
A UN (UNSCEAR) report on April 2, 2014 on health impacts of the Fukushima accident concluded that any radiation-induced effects would be too small to identify. People were well protected and received “low or very low” radiation doses. UNSCEAR gave an all-clear report.
Rebuttal of the UNSCEAR report by the German affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War d/d July 18, 2014 takes a defiant stance in opposition to the UN report, to wit: “The Fukushima nuclear disaster is far from over. Despite the declaration of ‘cold shutdown’ by the Japanese government in December 2011, the crippled reactors have not yet achieved a stable status and even UNSCEAR admits that emissions of radioisotopes are continuing unabated. 188 TEPCO is struggling with an enormous amount of contaminated water, which continues to leak into the surrounding soil and sea. Large quantities of contaminated cooling water are accumulating at the site. Failures in the makeshift cooling systems are occurring repeatedly. The discharge of radioactive waste will most likely continue for a long time.”
“Both the damaged nuclear reactors and the spent fuel ponds contain vast amounts of radioactivity and are highly vulnerable to further earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and human error. Catastrophic releases of radioactivity could occur at any time and eliminating this risk will take many decades… It is impossible at this point in time to come up with an exact prognosis of the effects that the Fukushima nuclear disaster will have on the population in Japan… the UNSCEAR report represents a systematic underestimation and conjures up an illusion of scientific certainty that obscures the true impact of the nuclear catastrophe on health and the environment.”
To read the full text of the rejoinder to the UN report, go to: https://japansafety.wordpress.com/tag/saitama/
Fukushima’s Radiation and the Future
Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press (AP), June 12, 2015: “Four years after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, the road ahead remains riddled with unknowns… Experts have yet to pinpoint the exact location of the melted fuel inside the three reactors and study it, and still need to develop robots capable of working safely in such highly radioactive conditions. And then there’s the question of what to do with the waste… serious doubts about whether the cleanup can be completed within 40 years.”
“Although the Chernobyl accident was a terrible accident, it only involved one reactor. With Fukushima, we have the minimum [of] 3 reactors that are emitting dangerous radiation. The work involved to deal with this accident will take tens of years, hundreds of years,” Prof. Hiroaki Koide (retired), Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, April 25, 2015. “It could be that some of the fuel could actually have gone through the floor of the containment vessel as well… What I’ve just described is very, very logical for anyone who understands nuclear engineering or nuclear energy,” which dreadfully spells-out: THE CHINA SYNDROME.
According to the Smithsonian, April 30, 2015: “Birds Are in a Tailspin Four Years After Fukushima: Bird species are in sharp decline, and it is getting worse over time… Where it’s much, much hotter, it’s dead silent. You’ll see one or two birds if you’re lucky.” Developmental abnormalities of birds include cataracts, tumors, and asymmetries. Birds are spotted with strange white patches on their feathers.
Maya Moore, a former NHK news anchor, authored a book about the disaster: The Rose Garden of Fukushima (Tankobon, 2014), about the roses of Mr. Katsuhide Okada. Today, the garden has perished: “It’s just poisoned wasteland. The last time Mr. Okada actually went back there, he found baby crows that could not fly, that were blind. Mutations have begun with animals, with birds.”
The Rose Garden of Fukushima features a collection of photos of an actual garden that existed in Fukushima, Japan. Boasting over 7500 bushes of roses and 50-thousand visitors a year, the Garden was rendered null and void in an instant due to the triple disaster — earthquake, tsunami, and meltdown.
The forward to Maya’s book was written by John Roos, former US Ambassador to Japan 2009-13: “The incredible tale of Katz Okada and his Fukushima rose garden was told here by Maya Moore… gives you a small window into what the people of Tohoku faced.”
Roos’ “small window” could very well serve as a metaphor for a huge black hole smack dab in the heart of civilization. Similarly, Fukushima is a veritable destruction machine that consumes everything in its path, and beyond, and its path is likely to grow. For certain, it is not going away.
Thus, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) is deeply involved in an asymmetric battle against enormously powerful unleashed out-of-control forces of E=mc2.
Clearly, TEPCO has its back to the wall. Furthermore, it’s doubtful TEPCO will “break the back of the beast.” In fact, it may be an impossible task.
Maybe, just maybe, Greater Tokyo’s 38 million residents will eventually be evacuated. Who knows for sure?
Only Godzilla knows!
Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles