We're Number One!

One Big Happy Prison

excerpted from the book

Stupid White Men

and other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation

by Michael Moore

ReganBooks, 2001


We're Number One!

Among the top twenty industrialized nations, WE'RE number one!!

We're number one in millionaires.

We're number one in billionaires.

We're number one in military spending.

We're number one in firearm deaths.

We're number one in beef production.

We're number one in per capita energy use.

We're number one in carbon dioxide emissions (more than Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and the United Kingdom combined).

We're number one in total and per capita municipal waste (720 kilograms per person per year).

We're number one in hazardous waste produced (by a factor of more than twenty times our nearest competitor, Germany).

We're number one in oil consumption.

We're number one in natural gas consumption.

We're number one in the least amount of tax revenue generated (as a percentage of gross domestic product).

We're number one in the least amount of federal and state government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP).

We're number one in budget deficit (as a percentage of GDP).

We're number one in daily per capita consumption of calories.

We're number one in lowest voter turnout.

We're number one in number of political parties represented in the lower or single house.

We're number one in recorded rapes (by a factor of almost three times our nearest competitor-Canada).

We're number one in injuries and deaths from road accidents (almost twice as many as runner-up Canada).

We're number one in births to mothers under the age of twenty (again, more than twice as many as Canada, and nearly twice as many as number two New Zealand).

We're number one in the number of international human rights treaties not signed.

We're number one among countries in the United Nations with a legally constituted government to not ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We're number one in number of known executions of child offenders.

We're number one in likelihood of children under the age of fifteen to die from gunfire.

We're number one in likelihood of children under the age of fifteen to commit suicide with a gun.

We're number one in lowest eighth-grade math scores.

We're number one in becoming the first society in history in which the poorest group in the population are children.


One Big Happy Prison

Worse still is the way so many citizens have been locked up in the past decade thanks to Clinton/Gore policies. At the beginning of the nineties, there were about a million people in prison in the United States. By the end of the Clinton/Gore years, that number had grown to TWO MILLION. The bulk of this increase was the result of new laws being enforced against drug users, not pushers. Eighty percent of those who go to prison for drugs are in there for possession, not dealing. The penalties for crack use are three times as high as those for cocaine use.

It doesn't take much to figure out why the drug of choice in the white community is treated with so much more leniency than the drug that constitutes the only affordable high in the poor black and Hispanic community. For eight years there was an intense, aggressive move to lock up as many of these minority citizens as possible. Instead of providing the treatment their condition demands, we dealt with the problem by sending them to rot inside a prison cell.

With this standardized railroading of the poor going on daily in every city in America, our justice system has nothing to do with justice. Our judges and lawyers are more like glorified garbage men, rounding up and disposing of society's refuse-ethnic cleansing, American style.

Thirty-eight states have the death penalty. So does the federal government and the U.S. military. Twelve states, plus the District of Columbia (that little piece of swampland with a majority of African-Americans and those offensive license plates), do not.

Since 1976, there have been over seven hundred executions in the United States.

The top execution-happy states are:

Texas (248 executions-nearly one-third of all U.S. executions since 1976)
Virginia (82)
Florida (51)
Missouri (50)
Oklahoma (43)
Louisiana (26)
South Carolina (25)
Arkansas (24)
Alabama (23)
Arizona (22)
North Carolina (17)
Delaware (13)
Illinois (12)
California (9)
Nevada (9)
Indiana (8)
Utah (6)

A shocking recent death penalty study of 4,578 cases in a twenty-three-year period (1973-1995) concluded that the courts found serious, reversible error in nearly 7 of every 10 capital sentence cases that were fully reviewed during the period. It also found that death sentences were being overturned in 2 out of 3 appeals. The overall prejudicial review error rate was 68 percent.

Since 1973, some ninety-five death row inmates have been fully exonerated by the courts-that is, found innocent of the crimes for which they were sentenced to die. Ninety-six persons have been released as a result of DNA testing.

And what were the most common errors?

1. Egregiously incompetent defense lawyers who didn't even look for, or missed important evidence that would have proved innocence or demonstrated that their client didn't deserve to die.

2. Police or prosecutors who did discover that kind of evidence but suppressed it, actively derailing the judicial process.

In half the years studied, including the most recent one, the error rate was over 60 percent. High error rates exist across the country. In 85 percent of death penalty cases the error rates are 60 percent or higher. Three-fifths have error rates of 70 percent | or higher.

We are one of the few countries in the world that puts to death both the mentally retarded and juvenile offenders. The United States is among only six countries that impose the death penalty on juveniles. The others are Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

The United States is also the only country besides Somalia that has not signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Why? Because it contains a provision prohibiting the execution of children under eighteen, and we want to remain free to execute our children.

No other industrialized nation executes its children.

Even China prohibits the death penalty for those under eighteen-this from a country that has shown an intolerable lack of respect for human rights.

Currently the total number of death row inmates in the United States tops 3,700. Seventy of those death row inmates are minors (or were when they committed their crime).

But our Supreme Court doesn't find it cruel and unusual punishment (in the terms of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) to execute those who were sixteen years old when they committed a capital crime. This despite the fact that same court has ruled that sixteen-year-olds do not have "the maturity or judgment" to sign contracts.

Odd, isn't it, that a child's diminished capacity for signing contracts is viewed as a legal barrier to enforcing a contract, but when it comes to the right to be executed, a child's capacity is equal to that of an adult?

Eighteen states allow juvenile offenders as young as sixteen to be executed. Five others allow the execution of those who were seventeen or older when they committed their crime. In 1999 Oklahoma executed Sean Sellers, who was sixteen at the time of the murders he was found guilty of committing. Sellers's multiple personality disorder wasn't revealed to the jury that convicted him. A federal appeals court found that Sellers might have been "factually innocent" because of his mental disorder, but that "innocence alone is not sufficient to grant federal relief." Unbelievable.

What we have done, in this great country, is to wage a war not on crime but on the poor we feel comfortable blaming for it. Somewhere along the way we forgot about people's rights, because we didn't want to spend the money.

We live in a society that rewards and honors corporate gangsters-corporate leaders who directly and indirectly plunder the earth's resources and look out for the shareholders' profits above all else-while subjecting the poor to a random and brutal system of "justice."

Stupid White Men

Index of Website

Home Page