In the red, red sea

17 12 2014

We now know what we suspected and it’s all right.

Our government tortured and a good chunk of Americans are good with that.

Long pause as I contemplate this. And another.

One more.

Okay, then.

Jamelle Bouie is right that this should surprise no one:

It’s not just that Americans want a system that metes out punishment, it’s that—despite our Eighth Amendment—we are accepting of the cruelest punishment. And while it’s not legal, it exists and it’s pervasive. In theory, our prisons are holding cells for the worst offenders and centers for rehabilitation for the others. Inmates can work, learn, and prepare themselves for a more productive life in society. In reality, they are hellscapes of rape, abuse, and violence from gangs and guards.

[. . .]

If this is how we treat domestic prisoners—who, despite their crimes, are still citizens—then it’s no shock we torture noncitizen detainees, and it’s no surprise Americans largely support the abuse.

And thus, connecting punitive lash with punitive lash:

We aren’t living in “Dick Cheney’s America” as much as Dick Cheney is just living in America and thinking like an American. Here, we already believe our criminals deserve the brutality of our prisons. From there, it’s easy to think that our detainees deserve the depravity of our dungeons. That’s where he stands, and we stand with him.

So no one will be prosecuted, at least in domestic courts, and this may, even will probably, happen again.

And a good chunk of Americans are good with that.

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Every day I write the book

7 12 2014

According to the Free Thought Project, the 15-year-old girl was a runaway who the police officer was attempting to apprehend.

As a witness filmed, the officer walked up to the girl and punched her, knocking her down. She then put the girl in a chokehold — even after the teen’s mother begged her and a second officer to stop, saying that the girl is asthmatic and has emotional issues.

“She just punched her in the face!” said the woman holding the camera.

As her legs kicked and flailed, the girl told the officers she couldn’t breathe, screaming, “Stop!” over and over, but they continued to pin her against the pavement.

The second officer said that everything his comrade did was according to police procedure and that if she’d wanted to the officer “could have shot her dead.”

And from the top. . . if doing things by the book would allow you to shoot an unarmed teenaged runaway, maybe you need a different book.

Source: David Ferguson, RawStory





This was not helpful

21 05 2009

From the New York Times Lede Blog:

May 21, 2009, 7:38 am

Updated: 7:38 am

Catholic Archbishop Explains Remarks on ‘Courage’ of Abusers

The new head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols — who said on Wednesday that it “takes courage” for members of the clergy in Ireland who abused children “to face these facts from their past, which instinctively and quite naturally they’d rather not look at” — tried to clarify his comments on Thursday.

Archbishop Nichols, who officially takes over the post of Archbishop of Westminster at a ceremony on Thursday, told British television on Wednesday, after the release of a 2,600-page report detailing the abuse of Irish children at Church-run state institutions:

It’s very distressing and very disturbing. And my heart goes out today, first of all to those people who will find that their stories are now told in public…. Secondly, I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past, which instinctively and quite naturally they’d rather not look at. That takes courage. And also we shouldn’t forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did.

On Thursday, Archbishop Nichols told BBC Radio that his remarks were “perfectly sensible” and stressed that he also said that anyone guilty of abuse should be prosecuted. The BBC reported that Archbishop Nichols said, of members of the clergy who had committed abuse:

It is a tough road to take, to face up to our own weaknesses. That is certainly true of anyone who’s deceived themselves that all they’ve been doing is taking a bit of comfort from children.

The Irish Times reports that Archbishop Nichols was also asked if members of the clergy should be subject to prosection and that he replied: “Yes, absolutely. If the offenses are such that demand that.”

——

Oh, at least he wants them prosecuted. So what is doing to make sure that happens?





Won’t get fooled again

20 05 2009

I was going to post something light, whimsical, even.

Then I read the paper.

The report on abuse in Irish schools was released earlier today, and offers up yet more horrifying stories of beatings, rape, humiliation, and all-around violence. Unfortunately, the Christian Brothers successfully sued the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse to keep the names of the violent criminals its members out of the report, so justice, so long in coming, will be delayed even more.

From the Executive Summary:

More than 90% of all witnesses who gave evidence to the Confidential Committee reported being physically abused while in schools or out-of-home care. Physical abuse was a component of the vast majority of abuse reported in all decades and institutions and witnesses described pervasive abuse as part of their daily lives. They frequently described casual, random physical abuse but many wished to report only the times when the frequency and severity were such that they were injured or in fear for their lives. In addition to being hit and beaten, witnesses described other forms of abuse such as being flogged, kicked and otherwise physically assaulted, scalded, burned and held under water. Witnesses reported being beaten in front of other staff, residents, patients and pupils as well as in private. Physical abuse was reported to have been perpetrated by religious and lay staff, older residents and others who were associated with the schools and institutions. There were many reports of injuries as a result of physical abuse, including broken bones, lacerations and bruising.

And, of course, these children were rarely believed, or blamed for the torment visited upon them by both clerical and lay authorities. Again, from the ES:

Contemporary complaints were made to the School authorities, the Gardaí, the Department of Education, Health Boards, priests of the parish and others by witnesses, their parents and relatives. Witnesses reported that at times protective action was taken following complaints being made. In other instances complaints were ignored, witnesses were punished, or pressure was brought to bear on the child and family to deny the complaint and/or to remain silent. Witnesses reported that their sense of shame, the power of the abuser, the culture of secrecy and isolation and the fear of physical punishment inhibited them in disclosing abuse.

I saw a clip on the BBC of a man who had survived his years in the schools. He looked to be in his fifties or sixties, but the anguish was fresh.

According to the BBC, ‘The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said those who perpetrated violence and abuse should be held to account, “no matter how long ago it happened”.’

So tell the good Brothers to release the damned names themselves. Don’t abandon that anguished man again.

I’ve been reading a number of different reactions to the release of the Commission report, including, dishearteningly, those few who argue that the abuse ‘wasn’t that bad’. Many more commentators blame the Catholic Church, with the blame running from the hierarchy to celibacy to gay priests to the heresy of Jansenism.

I’m not particularly interested in defending the Church—goddess knows it has more than enough lawyers to defend itself. But I don’t think the problem is with Catholicism per se, not least when inquiries into abuses in Australia and Canada revealed similar problems in Anglican-run institutions.

It’s not even a problem with Christianity or religion. There was recently an article in the St. Petersburg Times about the abuse, even death, of inmates at the Florida School for Boys. (Go here for the multi-media report.) The state knew there were problems, knew for decades there were problems, but little was done.

No one was charged for the torture and death of these boys.

Should I mention Guantanamo? Abu Ghraib? The prison outside of Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan? Hell, what about prisons within the US?

The dynamics of abuse in these various places is not all the same, but they do share one very important element in common: Unchecked authority.

Both parts of that phrase are important: Many of those [edit to add: who] abused were authority figures themselves, or granted authority to so abuse by those in positions superior to them. And those who didn’t condone the abuse itself nonetheless shielded these men (and in the case of the Irish Sisters of Mercy, women) from the civil and criminal consequences of their actions.

Oh, sure, Lindy England and Charles Grainor and Fathers Geoghan and Shanley were tried and sent to prison, but the problems of unchecked authority go far beyond these few so-called bad apples.

No, the abuse in borne of the righteousness of such authority, be it clerical or civic righteousness. These kids were delinquents or whores or incorrigible; prisoners are the lowest of the low, animals, threats to society; terrorists are, well, terrorists. In all cases ‘harsh treatment’ is acceptable, encouraged, even. How else are they to learn? How else are they to know who’s in charge? How else are they to know what’s good for them?

And it is such righteousness which allows abuse to continue, unchecked. Those in charge are holding the line, keeping us safe, willing to do the dirty work we all want done but don’t want to know about. They are good men and women; heroes, even.

Well, fuck that. I’m not an anarchist—I believe in authority, properly exercised—but if those in authority cannot, in fact, exercise it properly, then why bother? If those in authority escape prosecution (almost everyone), retain their licenses to practice law (Gonzalez, Yoo), remain on the bench (Bybee), get booted upward to a position in the Vatican (Cardinal Law), or get a school named after them (Arthur G. Dozier, head of the Florida School for Boys during the worst of the abuses), why the fuck should any of us respect this so-called authority?

And walking away or getting past all this or not looking backward or playing the blame game? No. Open it up, open it all up, and let those who authorized this abuse justify themselves in public, before the public, and, perhaps, before a jury.

Otherwise we’re just stuck with Meet the new boss, same as the old boss—be that boss a priest, a cardinal, a superintendent, a CIA official, or a president.

Open it up, open it all up.