Monthly Archives: December 2010

Rights? What Rights?

You think you got rights? Watch the Frontline documentary, “The Confessions.” A brutal rape led to one man being questioned by the police. He passed a lie detector test, but the interrogating officers told him he’d failed the test and then subjected him to over 18 hours of questioning. He eventually broke and signed a false confession. He was threatened with a death penalty if he didn’t confess to a crime he did not commit.

This man then implicated another person under duress, and he was brought in to face intense questioning. He implicated two other people, one of which was not even in the country at the time, and both were brutalized under massive questioning and threats of the death penalty. All confessed to a crime they did not commit.

No forensic evidence matched any of the accused to the crime. Yet, because they signed a scripted confession under duress, they were convicted and their convictions held on appeal. Let me reiterate that: no physical evidence linked them to the crime, but the interrogating officer racked up four false confessions and sent four innocent men to prison.

Three other men were accused of the crime, but their charges were dropped. One more man, Omar Ballard, was convicted of the crime. His DNA matched that found on the scene and his confession stated that he committed the act unaided and alone. In spite of that DNA match and confession that he raped the woman alone, the other four men in prison stayed there.

The first man served his entire sentence and is trying to clear his conviction. The other three were granted a conditional pardon by the Governor of Virginia, but the Governor said they could be retried.

The interrogating officer, Glenn Ford, has a history of forcing false confessions and had been reprimanded for such behavior in a previous case. He has been since indicted and convicted on two counts of extorting accused persons in exchange for better treatment.

You can read more at the Norfolk Four website. What disgusts me is that a governor could not give a full pardon to four men that were clearly innocent and victims of a man that chose to violate their civil rights. What disgusts me is that the man that lied to four men, saying their lie detector tests came back negative, extorting their confessions, was held up as a paragon of law enforcement for so long when he was the very thing the law was supposed to protect against. What disgusts me is that even after the public became aware of the situation, the state of Virginia still attempted to re-try the cases of the men released on conditional pardon.

Our rights exist only as long as those in charge of protecting those rights choose to respect them. Those that are in charge of protecting rights are more likely to protect those of the rich, using the poor as stepping-stones to a bigger conviction record, never mind their actual guilt or innocence. The system does not allow for new evidence to be introduced at the appeal level and governors, ever paragons of hypocrisy, will not pardon the innocent for fear of losing votes.

Some Truth About the Middle East

I’ve just finished watching Robert Fisk’s “Lies, Misreporting, and Catastrophe in the Middle East.” I truly enjoy Fisk’s reporting and comments on how others report. He is refreshingly honest and does his best to avoid using the language of power that propagates oppression and violence. He refuses to call problems “issues” or a breakdown in talks a “peace process.”

So here’s the short version of his speech and discussion: There is no peace for Israel. There will be no Palestinian state, and unless Israel actually engages in a wholesale genocide on the level of the Turkish genocide of Armenia in 1915, the Palestinians will remain in the area to antagonize Israel. Israeli soldiers will never be sure which Palestinians are violent and which ones are not, so the violence against civilians will continue. Likewise, Palestinian bombers will take lives of soldiers as well as children: it will be a tragedy, a catastrophe on both sides, with innocents of all stripes caught in between.

Will the Israelis subject the Palestinians to a full-on genocide? I think that’s a likely event, given that he USA supports Israel without question or hesitation. The USA already turns a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear weapons. The USA already does not press Israel to be specific about where its eastern border actually is. The USA already has a reporting network that refuses to be honest about the suffering there, not allowing photos and eyewitness reporter evidence to appear without Israel’s official denial of said evidence, as blatant as a Turk saying there never was an Armenian genocide.

Here’s where I’ll make a departure from Mr. Fisk and extend a prediction of events in Israel. The genocide there will not be of the hurried, Nazi variety. The Nazis knew they were running out of time after they failed to take down Russia in 1941. The Israelis know that time is against them, but in a matter of decades, not years. They can afford either the Russian or Republica Srpska approach. They can squeeze out the Palestinians, demand a blockade against them while they continue to receive arms, and drive them from their lands. There are 6 million Palestinians outside of Israel and the Occupied Territories. There are also 6 million Armenians outside of Turkey, so there’s a parallel for you.

Palestinian violence will continue as long as Israeli violence is directed against them. If the Palestinians ever looked set to take Israel by storm, Israeli nuclear weapons are likely buried underneath their cities, ready to detonate and deny the Palestinians those targets, just as the Apartheid South African government was prepared to do the same in the event of an ANC military victory. If Israel ever became the victim of a nuclear attack itself, it would make other people in Syria, Iran, and Lebanon victims as well.

There is no good guys vs. bad guys in this case. I am of the belief that the wicked destroy the wicked and, being wicked, see nothing wrong in slaughtering innocents caught in the crossfire. I don’t see any way out of this unless the USA unilaterally abandons Israel as an ally, which is not going to happen. The USA made a mistake in creating the state of Israel and, as an empire, can not withdraw that support without losing its power. Therefore, the USA’s will to empire has entrapped it in a violent snare from which it refuses to escape.

In Tarkovsky’s film “Stalker,” the main character says that weakness and flexibility are signs of life – the weak ask for help and the flexible bend in the face of forces that would otherwise destroy them. The character then said that strength and inflexibility always go with death. The strong and inflexible stand firm, sure that they can face down the very thing that is guaranteed to destroy them. Their strength and inflexibility blinds them to the dangers in their face. Sadly, both the USA and Israel are strong and inflexible.

Art and the World

While at an AP Art Strategies conference today, I realized that although science presents an unflinching view of the world, it is often beyond the capacity of most people to understand at first encounter. The same can be said for many subjects that purport to tell us exactly what is around us – or that fail to provide answers about the big questions. Arts help us to come to a better realization and understanding of these grand concepts. Even though the arts can be mistaken in a view they adopt, even that mistaken view can aid in approaching the deeper secrets of science. The arts give us a context for analogies and metaphors so that we find ourselves more able to learn with the arts as aids.