A hitherto unknown group of prosecutors in California have made the international news big-time: they decided to enforce a three decade old warrant against Roman Polanski, the film director. As a result, Mr Polanski is under arrest in Switzerland – an escaped felon wanted by the United States.
There are many fascinating angles to this story which I won't go into. Mr Polanski was charged in 1977 with unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty, submitted himself to the local authorities and served a short time in prison – for psychological observation. When time came for sentencing, Polanski was told that the judge would not honour the plea bargain they had accepted and instead intended to sell him down the river. Polanski hopped a plane to London and has spent the last 30 years avoiding arrest and extradition.
There are some mitigating factors on Polanski's side.
At the time there was speculation that the child's mother had groomed the child to entrap Polanski for blackmail. There has never been any published evidence to support that allegation but the circumstances under which the mother handed her child over to a man she barely knew suggest that she may not have been as protective as might be expected
The mother is now dead. Polanski has paid apparently substantial damages to the child, now 45 years old. The victim has said she does not want Polanski prosecuted and will refuse to testify if required. She blames her mother, the prosecutors and the press for repeatedly dragging her backward through an experience she wants to forget.
The prosecutors may not be content with their 15 minutes of fame but they may yet end up looking more foolish than they already do. If they think they can get Polanski jailed because of his 1978 guilty plea Polanski has an answer – withdraw the plea as the bargain was broken long ago
If he does, the prosecutors will have to proceed without a complainant.
Furthermore there is substantial evidence of judicial misbehaviour in the original proceedings, misbehaviour on record from one of the original prosecutors. The governments of France and Poland have already intervened with the Swiss government and the US secretary of State for the freedom of the 76 year old Polanski who has paid, if not conventionally, for his idiotic and criminal behaviour so long ago.
Goosey, goosey, gander …
In the balmy surroundings of a millionaire's palazzo in Florida lives another aging felon. But he appears to be secure from the attentions of prosecutors although he has been charged with more than 70 murders.
The United States government is aware of his presence in the country - some of its agents having assisted his arrival and domicile.
This felon, one Luis Posada Carriles, has no apologies for his assaults on the people of his native land, Cuba, nor for his many other victims of various nationalities. He was an agent of the CIA and of various anti-Cuban terrorist groups and he has blown up or tried to blow up, targets ranging from Soviet ships, Cuban hotels and diplomatic missions, to a number of Latin American presidents including his bête noir, Fidel Castro.
For that last plot he was imprisoned in Panama. He was sprung by some fancy footwork involving the outgoing president of Panama and some official and unofficial American agents.
The Americans have refused to extradite Posada either to Cuba, or Venezuela to face charges of blowing up a planeful of young Cubans and Guyanese and of attempting to murder Fidel Castro and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, among others. Under international law, any country can try any terrorist anytime for crimes against humanity
Posada has very powerful friends. Polanski should be so lucky!
It was in the nineties that we began hearing about "famine fatigue" affecting the North Atlantic populations who were incessantly being asked to contribute to one or another worthy cause – usually exemplified in photographs of starving children with enormous eyes. Then, it was all about Africa.
The droughts in the Sahel and in Ethiopia and Somalia, we are told, are a direct consequence of the industrial revolution in Europe changing the climate of northern Africa.
THe Industrial Revolution is now worldwide and its effects are global rather than continental.
There is drought in Guatemala, Australia, Kenya and the Iberian peninsula, flooding in parts of the Sahel and West Africa. The Philippines having been battered by typhoon 'Ketsana' which took more than 500 lives and left half a million homeless is as I write preparing for the onslaught of an even more dangerous typhoon. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia received unwelcome attention from Ketsana and will probably get more of the same next week.
The north and south polar regions are in rapid decline with continents of ice, thousands and perhaps millions of years old, melting into the sea.
Parts of South Australia and the neighborhood are rapidly reverting to desert as the huge Murray-Darling river complex dries up and the water turns too salty to drink.
The so-called 'climate refugees' will be coming from everywhere. El Nino may continue to drive storms more northward than usual, and while we may not be battered by more frequent hurricanes for a year or two, those that come this way are likely to be much more violent and murderous.
As Australia dries up the price of wheat worldwide will go up, followed by prices generally. It is going to be much more difficult and more expensive for us to import food and fuel and everything else.
WE need to embark on an emergency programme radically different from that being proposed by the government.
We need to recognise that we are all in the same boat and that the rich must be made to pay their fair share. We cannot survive by taxing cellphones and books. We need to employ as many people as possible, building infrastructure, conserving water and energy. We need to terrace our hillsides and substantially reduce the numbers living and defecating on them. We need to take over the sugar estates to grow food – small farmer agriculture with small stock, chickens, goats and pigs. It is amazing how much food can be grown on two acres of land
We need to recognise that even if all the grand schemes – like the Fantastic Folly at Falmouth – are ever built they are doomed to become expensive monuments to greed and stupidity.
It is time to think small, as they have perforce learned in `Cuba. We will soon be unable to afford the vehicles, not to speak of the fuel. Ethanol can't feed hungry-belly.
Although few of us appear to be aware, we are in really deep trouble. As the first law of holes tells us: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
Where will we find space put the people of Savanna la Mar, Black River, Falmouth, Caymanas and above all, Portmore, who are displaced by global warming and rising sea levels? (The gas station in Independence City, is, at 18 feet above sea level, Portmore's Kanchenjungma)
We need to clean up our environment in order to grow more food and avoid expensive sicknesses. We need to teach our children that this society really does belong to them and not to some greedy multinational in Lombard Street.
We need to abolish poverty; and we have the resources to do it.
And above all, we need to recognise that we have very little time to work for justice, social peace and human development.
Copyright©2009 John Maxwell