Saturday, March 05, 2011

Dispatch from the Inferno State: Arizona’s ‘Leaders’ Condone Barbarism 


-by Doug Kahn

Here’s how it goes down in Sheriff Joe’s gulag, as written in the Arizona Republic last November: 
Inmate William Hughes, 24, was shown in a jail surveillance video being led by three escort officers into a room in the psychiatric ward of the Lower Buckeye Jail. After the officers bend Hughes-- who is manacled and handcuffed and wearing a “spit mask”-- over the table, Gerster is seen walking almost casually up to the table, stepping lightly onto it, then placing a foot onto Hughes’ neck and evidently leaning onto his foot.

After Gerster takes his foot off Hughes’ neck, another detention officer, Alan Keesee, walks up to the table and slams Hughes’ head against the surface. Keesee, 32, was detained Monday for questioning and released.

Charges against both officers are pending.

Later in the video, Hughes is seen being led by deputies toward a cell, and Gerster is seen punching Hughes four times in the back of the head and kicking him in the left leg.

In another video, made on June 5, inmate Michael Flores, 28, who was being restrained on a psychiatric-ward bed but evidently using abusive language, is apparently struck in the jaw by Gerster, who was under orders to supervise the inmate during his time under restraint.

Be aware that this video shows gross brutality against a human being. 

From the Phoenix NewTimes last December 3, about the June 5 beat-down of Michael Flores: 
In a second instance, inmate Michael Flores is seen chained to a bed in a cell after it was claimed he was aggressive with deputies and banged his head against a wall. As dictated by jail policy, Gerster was monitoring the bound inmate from behind a desk just outside of the open cell.

“He was probably mouthing off,” Chief Jerry Sheridan, chief of custody for the county’s jails, said at the press conference.

Out of nowhere, Gerster jumps from his chair, tosses the desk aside, goes into the cell, and punches Flores in the face.

Flores went to a hospital 3 days after his release and was found to have a broken jaw. The hospital staff called the Sheriff’s Department to report the injury, and they supposedly started an investigation. Remember that these are the Sheriff’s Department’s own videos.
Chief Sheridan’s excuses, after the press and public saw the videos: 
“There were more than 14 hours of videotape to be reviewed, and Mr. Flores was not always available to talk to,” Sheridan said. “Also, there was the matter of due process. But when the November incident took place, we went back to the June incident.”

The reference to ‘due process’ is apparently the Sheriff’s excuse for not taking Gerster off the job in September, when this occurred:
Gerster is also under arrest for using the jail’s computer system to get the home address of an inmate, then giving the address to a friend whose estranged wife was dating the inmate, Sheridan said.

Authorities allege that Gerster's friend used the information to locate the former inmate, then assault him and the estranged wife. Gerster's friend, Dennis McCarty, was arrested by Tempe police Sept. 19 and charged with aggravated assault, burglary and criminal damage.

Arpaio and Sheridan said an investigation is under way into the actions of officers who witnessed the actions of Gerster and Keesee.

Sheriff Joe’s comment:  
“It’s tough being a detention officer.” Arpaio said he is also reviewing how detention officers are assigned to the “extremely demanding” psychiatric ward duty. “I will look at having volunteer officers in the psych ward,” Arpaio said. “Perhaps we can find people who will be best suited to work in that environment.”

Now, Leave Arizona and Go Back to Civilization
John Boehner’s statement last week that union members are terrorists: 
“We’ve given them a machine gun and put it right at the heads of the local officials and they really have their hands tied.”

So they tie their hands behind their backs and murder them? 

Is this an example of language that tends to mainstream images of violent, armed aggression? Because it came from a man in a prominent position of responsibility in government, 3rd in the line of succession to the Presidency, does it help create a more permissive set of acceptable public actions, enabling the unhinged among us to actualize their most deranged thoughts, commit acts like the Tucson shootings of Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people, killing six of them?
If you agree, you’re happy about the formation of The National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona. 
“This institute is the right people in the right place at the right time,” said Fred DuVal, vice chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents and former co-chairman of Giffords's finance committee.

The center will be funded with private donations, and $1 million has already been raised, said DuVal, who will head the working board of the institute, which is his brainchild. The institute plans to organize workshops and conferences in Tucson, Washington and elsewhere nationwide, and will bring together leaders from across the political spectrum to develop programs to promote civil discourse.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush will serve as honorary chairmen of a new center at the University of Arizona that will focus on civility in political debate, university officials will announce Monday.

Do We Really Need To Look at Violent Words? 

Don’t actions speak louder than words? How about having national and local leaders who avoid committing or ordering violence against other human beings, unless it’s absolutely, positively necessary. Beyond that, it’s essential for all of us to debate the why, when and who of government-sanctioned violence.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Torturing people suspected of being present in the room when violence against Americans was discussed, then keeping them in prison indefinitely without trial, even when our own government has come around to thinking they’re innocent.
Instituting a policy accepting the killing of hundreds of innocent people, including children, in drone strikes inside Pakistan. These strikes are purportedly against suspected terrorists; targeting done by mercenaries, or contract killers, if you will. Creepy apologies from our employees, terming the killing of innocent people regrettable but necessary. Bombing, rocketing and strafing people in remote valleys of Afghanistan, based on sketchy ‘intelligence’. And when investigators from the government of Afghanistan finds 65 people, including children, were killed in one incident, quibbling over the number of innocents killed.)  

Hiring mercenaries to wage a secret war in Pakistan, and trying to make contract killers immune to prosecution under the justice system of Pakistan by claiming they’re actually U.S. diplomats. The New York Times
The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis’s work with the C.I.A.

On Monday, American officials lifted their request to withhold publication. George Little, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to comment specifically on the Davis matter, but said in a statement: “Our security personnel around the world act in a support role providing security for American officials. They do not conduct foreign intelligence collection or covert operations.”

Since the United States is not at war in Pakistan, the American military is largely restricted from operating in the country. So the Central Intelligence Agency has taken on an expanded role, operating armed drones that kill militants inside the country and running covert operations, sometimes without the knowledge of the Pakistanis.

The government of Pakistan reports that 851 U.S. State Department employees have diplomatic immunity in Pakistan. Diplomats. Absurd.
Distributing Tasers, weapons with lethal capabilities, to tens of thousands of police officers, without strict guidelines; leading to many officers shocking people, some fatally, even when extreme force isn’t necessary. (Haven’t we already settled this, proscribing the indiscriminate use of rubber bullets and night sticks?) Digby chronicles the worst of these incidents on Hullabaloo; just head on over and search for ‘taser’. 

This week, from the New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan — Nine young boys collecting firewood to heat their homes in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan were killed by gunners in NATO helicopters who mistook them for insurgents, according to a statement issued Wednesday by NATO, which apologized for the mistake.

I may be too suspicious of the Times and the our Government, but could we have some kind of general description of these “gunners”? Were they actually soldiers or mercenaries? What nationality? This isn’t some kind of video game with anonymous “gunners”, it’s human beings blowing up other human beings. 

In criminal law, Blackstone’s ratio is the principle: “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”, expressed by the English jurist William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 1760s. That’s civilization, civility. Designating ‘kill zones’ and blasting any human who crosses into the area: not.

I’m not someone with the right to condemn the soldiers who are ordered to kill people without cause. I have no doubt they’ll spend the rest of their lives bearing the spiritual pain of following inhuman orders. I don’t have any idea what that could be like. My draft card arrived at boarding school in 1969, and I tore it up, but I won the draft lottery and never had to pay up. 

Anybody mind if I blame President Obama and numerous Democrats in Congress? The escalation in Afghanistan was his big idea, and I don’t know if he actually believes in it, or uses it as a way to prove himself tough enough to appeal to some unevolved segment of the American electorate. I think it’s the latter, but I admit my perception is influenced by the way regular Democrats in Arizona act when it comes to the issue of immigration.
Arizona Democratic elected officials, almost without exception, lack the moral courage to stand up for the rights of ordinary Arizonans (who happen to not be white people), choosing instead to ‘fit in’ by incessantly calling for militarization of the border with Mexico, inveighing against ‘the Mexican drug- and human-smuggling cartels’. Their latest public relations barrage criticizes the Republicans in Congress for voting to cut $600 million from funds available for border control. At least that’s what the press releases claim; probably it was a cut in the budget for the Department of Homeland Security, and I’m too disgusted to want to look into the specifics. It’s the thought that counts, and it’s a rotten cave-in, a calculated misdirection away from the duty to lead people towards more civilized policies.
The Tucson Institute is many steps removed from the important debate; I sure hope it doesn’t just focus on creating a list of acceptable metaphors for public debate. 
The National Institute for Civil Discourse - a nonpartisan center for debate, research, education and policy about civility in public discourse-- will open Monday in Tucson. It was created in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 shootings in the city where six people were killed and 13 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) will serve as honorary co-chairmen. Board members will include former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright; Kenneth M. Duberstein, chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan; Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren; Trey Grayson, director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics; and former representative Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.).

Is it really necessary to debate this point? Anyone with an ounce of spirituality knows this without thinking about it.  
Words are like wind and waves; actions are a matter of gain and loss. Wind and waves are easily moved; questions of gain and loss easily lead to danger. Hence anger arises from no other cause than clever words and one-sided speeches. When animals face death, they do not care what cries they make; their breath comes in gasps and a wild fierceness is born in their hearts. Men, too, if you press them too hard, are bound to answer you with ill-natured hearts, though they do not know why they do so. If they themselves do not understand why they behave like this, then who knows where it will end?
Arpaio Nation
Arizona is a place where our most prominent public servants, people who are supposed to teach, by example, the proper behavior of citizens in a civilized society, instead glorify guns and lay hands on people. Where they beat the hell out of residents of Joe’s jail. Where a pregnant inmate with a drug addiction was taken to the hospital by Arpaio’s deputies when she went into labor, and the Sheriff insisted she be handcuffed to the bed during the birth of her child.
February 3, 2009, Arpaio marched 200 people in his custody (the overwhelming majority Latin@s) into their new tent city, segregated from the rest of the inmates. In chains, shackled together, wearing striped uniforms labeled “unsentenced”. (70% of Joe’s prisoners are just awaiting trial, convicted of nothing.) It was different from a previous spectacle, when he made the inmates march wearing pink underwear and flip-flops. The Phoenix NewTimes’ Stephen Lemons talked to a former State Senator who is one of the driving forces behind the current national boycott of Arizona convention and tourist facilities: 
As I was leaving, I waylaid Alfredo Gutierrez, whose new bilingual Web site Lat Frontera Times is a must read these days, and asked if he knew how Arpaio could top himself after this latest circus act.

“Public floggings,” he quipped. “Every time he does one of  these things, it increases the level of audaciousness... I used to think, ‘Well, now, he’s gone too far, and the public’s gonna have some revulsion to this.’ But I don’t believe that any more. I think he’s got kind of a zeitgeist of hate out there. This Romanesque show is going to resonate.”

After the Tucson massacre in January, a different Sheriff talked to the Arizona Republic about the celebration of violence in Arizona.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was leaving a sheriffs convention in Palm Springs, Calif., a week ago Saturday when he got word of a shooting just outside Tucson.

“Seven people shot. That’s all we knew,” he said.

On the six-hour drive back, he heard more details on the radio. That it was at a town-hall meeting outside a supermarket. That U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot point-blank in the head and was clinging to life. That the gunman, young and possibly mentally unstable, kept firing and killing and wounding others before being tackled and disarmed.

He arrived at headquarters and about a half-hour later was standing before reporters to give a briefing. He started speaking about his friend, Giffords, and about his sadness and his shock. Then, he gave voice to his anger.

What Dupnik said next catapulted him into the national spotlight: The killer, he said, might have been influenced by ugly political rhetoric. He called it “vitriol.” He blamed radio and television commentators.

Some talk-show hosts and politicians denounced him, saying he was placing politics over law enforcement. Others praised him for speaking the truth.

“I’d been feeling those things for years,” Dupnik said in an interview with the Arizona Republic. “I decided to say what I was feeling.”

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At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Innocent until proven guilty? Due process? Why are corrections officers supposed to be your whipping boys for your hatred of wingnuts?
Let me state that you know very little of safety in this environment and give much ammunition to the right-wing meme of Ivory-Tower Leftists who don't know what Life is like.
If the officers are charged and be it. But they get a day in court.'s really hard to listen to how much we should be nice to folks...when the shooter of Giffords is not dead...the creep who stuffed a family in a tree is still breathing...
Many folks identify with the victims. Making excuses for Perps infuriates them.


At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arizona is nothing but empty homes and malls that will soon become an empty city. Terrible thing to happen!


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