Thursday, April 21, 2005

Is Bexar County Jail Another Abu Gharib? Probably.

In a recent press conference, Michael Idrogo ( Campaign Web Site ) candidate for Mayor, demanded the City reopen it's own jail and cancel all contracts with Bexar County Jail due to reports of ongoing TORTURE.

“In one report, an inmate apparently named Braunig, was tortured so badly that his tongue was swollen to the size of a cow's tongue; it appeared a second nose was growing out of the bridge of his nose; and a tracheotomy was performed in apparent attempts to keep him alive. It further appears that in-house jail medical staff assist in covering it up.”

For all you folks who think it can’t happen here, check out the recent events at Abu Gharib. Many have been willing to turn a blind eye to those events, and to torture in general, on the grounds that it is essential to fight terror. Bull pucky!! It has nothing to do with fighting terror and everything to do with human nature.

The torturers at Abu Gharib did not learn their craft in Iraq. They mastered it in the American civilian prison system, where most of them were employed before their deployment, and where such practices are notoriously widespread.

If you think such behavior is un-American, you’re absolutely correct. If you however believe that American government employees don’t perpetrate such acts every day on American civilian citizens, then you are dangerously naive.

Jailers torture their inmates because that’s what people do when they are given absolute power over those in their charge. It is only natural. If you doubt this fact, I refer you to The Stanford Prison Experiment: A Simulation Study of the .... If you believe such events are aberrations because their honest jailer colleagues will prevent or report any such behavior they witness, I refer you to The Milgram Experiment: A Lesson in Depravity. If you think our jailors are professionals, I suggest you blow off getting your GED and just get a job in the Corrections Department.

Prisoner abuse is not the fault of a few bad apples. The responsibility lies on all of us. There is always money for lucrative building contracts for new prisons but never enough funds for hiring more Corrections officers, or raising their salaries to a living wage, or for training and psychological support services, or for cameras and supervision. Even these measures would not be enough. Corrections officers need to be rotated and furloughed for disciplinary and psychological reasons. The stress of being a prison guard is immense and the strain would eventually get to a saint. Nobody’s psyche or character could sustain such assaults day in and day out, year after year, and not sustain traumatic damage. Check out the statistics on Delayed Stress Syndrome among ex-corrections officials.

For these reasons this writer believes that while well intentioned, Michel Idrogo’s demand will prove futile. Just changing the bureaucratic jurisdiction of responsibility for prisoners will accomplish little, if anything. In fact, it may be counterproductive. The resulting disorganization during any such transition period might inadvertently increase the likelihood of torture and neglect in the Bexar County Jail.

I salute Mr. Idrogo’s call for justice for the least among us. It is a courageous position to take that will probably get him very few votes. But, if more politicians had concerned themselves with such issues twenty tears ago, the honorable individuals who serve in this nation’s military might not have been so shamed by the behavior of those who merely did what came naturally to them.

For the time being, my bet is that politicians will continue in self-serving cowardice when it comes to justice for the incarcerated and torture will continue to be widespread in the corrections system. So if you don’t have a 15-inch bicep and a taste for man-flesh, I suggest you keep your nose very clean indeed; because if you get incarcerated in Texas, you will loose more than just your freedom. You will likely loose you teeth and your chastity as well. You may even loose your life.

With Runoff Likely, Front Runners Ignore the Outsiders at Their Own Peril

For a brief period WOAI had an unscientific running poll up and, while it lasted it showed some interesting data. Hardberger was ahead in the high 40’s, Julian was in the 20’s, Schubert was sitting around 12%, and very interestingly, Smith was at a whopping 8% and climbing with Oldham at 2% and the other candidates hovering around 1% each. Then, mysteriously, as soon as I had seen it, WOAI took down the poll. Hmmmm.

8%+2% +1%+1%=12%=the same amount of support as Carroll Schubert. Let me get this straight, with approximately $1,000,000, Carroll only managed to build the same size base of support as the combined support of the four little guys, who according to the City Clerk’s office have raised absolutely nothing. (more on theses candidates CFR status in later blogs)

Rhett Smith’s base is ¾ the size of Carroll’s yet it is unthinkable to include him in the debates? I don’t get it. If Juliian drops below 12% are all the cool politerati going to stop inviting him to their reindeer games as well? I don’t care what your politics are, if you’ve written a check to the Carroll Schubert campaign, you must be wanting your money back right about now. If he can’t bury the likes of the current Rhet Smith campaign while sitting on a $1,000,000 howitzer, then as a campaigner, he’s just a schmuck.

These figures have implications for Julian and Phil as well. Would either of these candidates ignore Schubert’s constituency in the likelihood the two of them made it into the runoff? I’ll wager not. They would be hustling the Northside for all its worth. The combined forces of the smaller campaigns could have the effect of being a spoiler in the final days. What makes the major campaigns so cocky?

Who are these people supporting the rear guard, do the frontrunners even know? Do you? Since nobody reports on their campaigns or invites them to the debates, probably not. Could their forces coalesce to be a factor in this election? You, bet they could.

Scuttlebutt has it that Rhett and Julie Oldham are buddies. While Julie is ignored in more mainstream circles, she has quite a following on the fringe. They might not all vote for her on Election Day, but they just might listen to Julie if she throws her weight behind one of the candidates. 2% may account for all those who will actually vote for her but it could be a serious mistake if the frontrunners ignore her pull in her social circle. The frontrunners would do good to remember that in 2004, Rhett Smith ran against Lamar Smith and received over 33,000 votes in Bexar county and more than 105,000 district wide. Even before the runoff, can any of the mainstream candidates honestly say that they could not use another 12% right about now?

How did Rhett Smith manage to get within spitting distance of Carroll with no resources? What is the demographic of his base? This quote from Rhett’s website might offer a clue:

“As a candidate for the office of mayor of San Antonio, it is entirely appropriate, during this holy season of Christian faith, to acknowledge the important role of Christianity in the lives of San Antonians and to acknowledge, also, the important role of all religions from around the world that now comprise our interfaith community throughout San Antonio. Without our religious faiths, our society's organizations and structures could not be sustained”

Rhett has been going around to various groups in the religious community and has been steadily gaining their support. Now in 2000 and 2004 when the Democrats weren’t ignoring or mocking these people, they were condescending to them, and look what it got them. Rhet has taken a page out of the Carl Rove playbook and, for better or worse, that page worked wonders for GW.

With two liberal Democrats running and the ex-Democrat turned Rockefeller-style Republican Carroll shunning this constituency, the local “mainstream” mayoral candidates seem to be out of touch with the new no longer silent majority. Now for all you secular materialist out there who protest that you don’t know any of these people and they don’t constitute a majority, I just have one thing to say. “Who’s the President?”

If you ignore people that make you feel icky or say things you think are unsophisticated, or pepper their diction with hyper-religiosity, you do so at your own peril. On Election Day they might just show up at the polls and ruin your whole day.

Adolescent Snobbery Just Ain’t Cool, in Fact It’s a Subversion of Democracy.

If you’ve been following the mayor’s race via TV and Newspapers, or attended the various debates, you may never have heard of Rhett Smith’s campaign. He and other less likely aspirants to office have been systematically excluded from the debates and their candidacies virtually ignored in the press, and he’s not happy about it..

According to Rhett:

"Our free and open democratic process in the city of San Antonio has been undermined in the upcoming May 7, 2005 elections for mayor. Officially filed candidates have been intentionally excluded from candidate events."

Now, ol’ Rhet has a point. When the Chambers of Commerce and the Humane Society sponsor and event it is not solely for the edification of the citizenry. Debate sponsoring organizations almost invariably have an agenda at City Hall. They know that it is highly likely that candidates with the largest war chests will be the most likely victors. Hence, it is in their interests to ingratiate themselves with the frontrunners.

Well-funded candidates believe that any attention given to the outsider candidates comes out of the elite's entitled slices of the face-time pie. The more candidates talking in a debate, the less face-time any one of them gets. Simply put, the moneyed candidates collude to keep the independents out of the dialog. Now I know all’s fare in love and war, but this isn’t very sporting. They have million dollar coffers with which to buy televised paid political advertisements and then they deny the only free airtime available to these dissenting voices.

The sponsoring organizations and the media claim that a format with too many candidates is somehow confusing or would constitute a cacophony. They wouldn’t have time for enough questions. The outsiders are losers and their candidacies are irrelevant. These people are unqualified, eccentrics or stupid. These arguments are at best self-serving and at worst slanders and pernicious distortions of the electoral process that have the effect of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

What is the optimal number of candidates for a debate? For a presidential election we were told it was two, and no more. But for a mayoral debate three is just right. Who are we kidding folks? The fix is in. I remeber the Democratic Primary debates and they were really interesting. They weren't boring or scripted and their spontaneity was refreshing. Who can forget Al Sharpton, that guy was a hoot. Carol Mosely Braun's presence made Al look positively moderate. Leiberman's dignity made the frontrunners look like the slick, overambitious, evasive charletains they actually were. What's a frontrunner anyway? Can you say Dick Gephardt? Besides, these debates alowed them to put their issues into the dialogue, so you see winning isn't everythin Newt.

OK some of these people are geeks, but where is it written you have to be cool to run for office? It is not their lack of funds or qualifications that ultimately handicaps these candidates’ chances for election. It is the cult of cool. If you were a social or a jock in high school, you will probably make an excellent fundraiser or television journalist. But if you were stuck in the library when the other kids were at pep rally, then you are to be politically disenfranchised for life. These people have committed the last unpardonable sin in America. The outsider candidates are uncool.

What the arbiters of upward social mobility need to realize is most people are uncool, that’s what makes the socials special. But elections aren’t about being special. They’re about what most people think. Newsflash…most people don’t think like the cool people, or believe what the cool people believe. Indeed they feel victimized by the coolocentric dominant culture and they're resentful. To you cool people out there, that's righteous indignation, not envy. That is why they don’t look like them or act like them. So why do the cool people get to decide who gets face time, whose voices are heard, who’s eccentric, whose priorities are the right ones for the rest of the uncool electorate? If you are cool and you want to run for office or become a TV anchor, that’s cool. Your candidate will raise tons off cash, buy tons of TV propaganda and probably win. But this ain’t high school, this is democracy so you don’t get to decide the destiny of the unwashed masses of the uncool any longer.

Does Joaquin Float?

Julian and Joaquin’s was not the only curious behavior at the River Parade. What was up with the rest of the City Council? The barge was clearly marked City Council. Joaquin is not a City Council Member. So why did Schubert and the rest of the Council Members let Joaquin on the float? Surely they must have known it was an inappropriate stunt during a fierce campaign. If he had refused to get off voluntarily, they could always have resorted to the obvious tactic.

Besides, if they had, it would have answered the most burning question on every San Antonian’s mind, “Does Joaquin float?”