Guards Brutally Beat Prisoners and Lied About It. They Weren’t Fired. – The New York Times

Alysia Santo, Joseph Neff and 

This article was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.

“Shattered teeth. Punctured lungs. Broken bones. Over a dozen years, New York State officials have documented the results of attacks by hundreds of prison guards on the people in their custody.

But when the state corrections department has tried to use this evidence to fire guards, it has failed 90 percent of the time, an investigation by The Marshall Project has found.

The review of prison disciplinary records dating to 2010 found more than 290 cases in which the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision tried to fire officers or supervisors it said physically abused prisoners or covered up mistreatment that ranged from group beatings to withholding food. The agency considered these employees a threat to the safety and security of prisons.

Yet officers were ousted in just 28 cases. The state tried to fire one guard for using excessive force in three separate incidents within three years — and failed each time. He remains on the state prisons payroll.”

“. . . .   A key reason the prison system finds it so hard to get rid of guards is the contract the state signed in 1972 with the union. The agreement requires any effort to fire an officer to go through binding arbitration, using an outside arbitrator hired by the union and the state — a system the union has successfully kept in subsequent contracts. Only a court can overturn arbitration decisions.”

How a ‘Blue Wall’ Inside N.Y. State Prisons Protects Abusive Guards – The New York Times

By Joseph Neff, Alysia Santo and Tom MeagherThis article was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.May 22, 2023Updated 9:39 a.m. ETBEACON, N.Y. — The way the prison guards described it in their paperwork, there was a minor disturbance the day they took Chad Stanbro to a dental clinic at a regional hospital.Mr. Stanbro, a prisoner, had been sedated but became agitated during surgery, took a swing at a dentist and kicked a correctional officer in the stomach, they wrote. The guard and a colleague had quickly restrained him and had driven him back to Fishkill Correctional Facility, where, according to the senior officer’s account, Mr. Stanbro had “reported no injuries.”But critical details were missing — including that Mr. Stanbro had been paralyzed during the incident. A third officer had rushed into the clinic’s operating room and had knelt on Mr. Stanbro’s neck until he couldn’t move, according to later court testimony. That guard had asked his colleagues to leave him out of their reports, they acknowledged at trial, and they had done so.

David Brooks | Joe Biden and the Struggle for America’s Soul – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Joe Biden built his 2020 presidential campaign around the idea that “we’re in a battle for the soul of America.” I thought it was a marvelous slogan because it captured the idea that we’re in the middle of a moral struggle over who we are as a nation. In the video he released this week launching his re-election bid, he doubled down on that idea: We’re still, he said, “in a battle for the soul of America.”

I want to dwell on the little word “soul” in that sentence because I think it illuminates what the 2024 presidential election is all about.

What is a soul? Well, religious people have one answer to that question. But Biden is not using the word in a religious sense, but in a secular one. He is saying that people and nations have a moral essence, a soul.

Whether you believe in God or don’t believe in God is not my department. But I do ask you to believe that every person you meet has this moral essence, this quality of soul.

Because humans have souls, each one is of infinite value and dignity. Because humans have souls, each one is equal to all the others. We are not equal in physical strength or I.Q. or net worth, but we are radically equal at the level of who we essentially are.

The soul is the name we can give to that part of our consciousness where moral life takes place. The soul is the place our moral sentiments flow from, the emotions that make us feel admiration at the sight of generosity and disgust at the sight of cruelty.

It is the place where our moral yearnings come from, too. Most people yearn to lead good lives. When they act with a spirit of cooperation, their souls sing and they are happy. On the other hand, when they feel their lives have no moral purpose, they experience a sickness of the soul — a sense of lostness, pain and self-contempt.

Because we have souls, we are morally responsible for what we do. Hawks and cobras are not morally responsible for their actions; but humans, possessors of souls, are caught in a moral drama, either doing good or doing ill.

Political campaigns are not usually contests over the status of the soul. But Donald Trump, and Trumpism generally, is the embodiment of an ethos that covers up the soul. Or to be more precise, each is an ethos that deadens the soul under the reign of the ego.

Trump, and Trumpism generally, represents a kind of nihilism that you might call amoral realism. This ethos is built around the idea that we live in a dog-eat-dog world. The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. Might makes right. I’m justified in grabbing all that I can because if I don’t, the other guy will. People are selfish; deal with it.

This ethos — which is central to not only Trump’s approach to life, but also Vladimir Putin’s and Xi Jinping’s — gives people a permission slip to be selfish. In an amoral world, cruelty, dishonesty, vainglory and arrogance are valorized as survival skills.

People who live according to the code of amoral realism tear through codes and customs that have built over the centuries to nurture goodness and foster cooperation. Putin is not restrained by notions of human rights. Trump is not restrained by the normal codes of honesty.

In the mind of an amoral realist, life is not a moral drama; it’s a competition for power and gain, red in tooth and claw. Other people are not possessors of souls, of infinite dignity and worth; they are objects to be utilized.

Biden talks a lot about the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. At its deepest level, that struggle is between systems that put the dignity of individual souls at the center and systems that operate by the logic of dominance and submission.

You may disagree with Biden on many issues. You may think he is too old. But that’s not the primary issue in this election. The presidency, as Franklin D. Roosevelt put it, “is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.”

One of the hardest, soul-wearying parts of living through the Trump presidency was that we had to endure a steady downpour of lies, transgressions and demoralizing behavior. We were all corroded by it. That era was a reminder that the soul of a person and the soul of a nation are always in flux, every day moving a bit in the direction of elevation or a bit in the direction of degradation.

A return to that ethos would bring about a social and moral disintegration that is hard to contemplate. Say what you will about Biden, but he has generally put human dignity at the center of his political vision. He treats people with charity and respect.

The contest between Biden and Trumpism is less Democrat versus Republican or liberal versus conservative than it is between an essentially moral vision and an essentially amoral one, a contest between decency and its opposite.”

David French | Gun Idolatry Is Destroying the Case for Guns – The New York Times

“. . . . But the gun rights movement is changing. In many quarters of America, respect for firearms has turned into a form of reverence. As I wrote in 2022, there is now widespread gun idolatry. “Guns” have joined “God” and “Trump” in the hierarchy of right-wing values. At the edges, gun owners have gone from defending the rights of people to own semiautomatic rifles like AR-15s to openly brandishing them in protests, even to the point of, for example, staging an armed occupation of parts of the Michigan Capitol during anti-lockdown protests.

But we’re now facing something worse than gun idolatry. Too many armed citizens are jittery at best, spoiling for a fight at worst. In recent days we’ve seen a rash of terrible shootings by nervous, fearful or angry citizens. A young kid rings the bell on the wrong door and is shot. A young woman drives into the wrong driveway and is shot. A cheerleader accidentally tries to get in the wrong car and is pursued and shot, along with her friend. A basketball rolls into a man’s yard, and a neighboring 6-year-old girl and her father are shot.” . . . .

Opinion | Let’s Protect Children at Least as Well as We Protect Ducks – The New York Times

Mr. Ashe was the director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service from February 2011 to January 2017.

“In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, commercial hunting was devastating populations of ducks, geese and other water birds. In response, Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, granting the United States Fish and Wildlife Service authority to regulate the killing of migratory birds nationwide. Now waterfowl are thriving in North America, an exception to the general, global trend in the decline of birds and other wildlife populations.”

Dan Ashe | Let’s Protect Children at Least as Well as We Protect  Ducks – The New York Times

Mr. Ashe was the director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service from February 2011 to January 2017.

“In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, commercial hunting was devastating populations of ducks, geese and other water birds. In response, Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, granting the United States Fish and Wildlife Service authority to regulate the killing of migratory birds nationwide. Now waterfowl are thriving in North America, an exception to the general, global trend in the decline of birds and other wildlife populations.

One of the earliest waterfowl protection regulations put in place by the Fish and Wildlife Service restricts the firearms that hunters can use by limiting how many shells a hunter’s shotgun may hold. Anyone hunting ducks, geese, doves or other migratory birds anywhere in the United States cannot use a shotgun that is capable of shooting more than three times without reloading. They also cannot use shotguns larger than 10 gauge in order to prevent situations where one blast might kill several birds in a flock. These regulations have been in place since the 1930s, and have driven the manufacture and availability of hunting shotguns.”

Bret Stephens | Undeterred Criminals Plus Demoralized Cops Equals More Crime – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Two years ago, a white Chicago police officer named Eric Stillman fatally shot Adam Toledo, an unarmed 13-year-old Mexican American with no criminal record, while the boy was complying with the officer’s orders following a late-night foot chase. The killing brought greater awareness to police brutality in Latino communities, yet no charges were filed against Stillman. Since then, Chicago has been able to turn a corner on violent crime, thanks partly to investments in after-school youth programs. Murders are down by 20 percent from two years ago.

That’s one version of events, the version favored by the progressive left.

Another version goes like this. On March 29, 2021, at 2:36 a.m., Stillman and his partner responded to a call that shots were being fired. Stillman pushed Ruben Roman, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, to the ground and chased Toledo, who was holding a 9-millimeter handgun, down a dark alley. Stillman yelled “drop it.” Toledo tossed the gun behind a fence and turned toward him. The officer fired the fatal shot less than a second after Toledo got rid of the gun. Stillman then immediately jumped to Toledo’s aid and called for an ambulance.

Roman was acquitted of firing the weapon at a passing car; his lawyers argued that it might have been Toledo who had fired the weapon.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT NYT comment:

A friend of mine, who is also about 70, caught two black men taking the catalytic converter off his prius in his own church parking lot in Hamden, CT. He ordered the men to stop. One of the men turned on him and said, I have gun, and we are taking what we want. They finished removing the piece, and drove off in an old jalopy with no license plates. It might be time to bring back the gulag. CT has a stiff law against trading in such auto parts, but apparently our neighbor states do not, or so I heard.

Margaret Renkl | An Open Letter to Governor Lee on the Slaughter of Our Children – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — Dear Gov. Bill Lee,

“For more than 24 hours, I waited for you to speak to the people of Tennessee about the massacre of Nashville schoolchildren and the adults who gave their lives trying to keep them safe. These were your citizens. These children were your children. This shattered faith community is exactly the kind of community that gives you solace in your own moments of fear and despair. What would you say to them? To us?

What promises of reform would you offer? What vows before God that nothing like this would ever happen to another family on your watch? To another innocent child?

I waited to hear.

I have never had any reason to believe that you would represent my own views and my own values in the governance of this state, but I still had hope that the murder of children would have the power, however temporarily, to carry us to common ground. God help me, I still had enough faith in your humanity to hope that you might be moved by the obliterated bodies of these tiny Tennesseans to do something. To lead us somewhere better. At the very least to promise that you would try.

For more than 24 hours, you did not speak.

I live in a quiet neighborhood. In that quiet, it is possible to hear sirens from miles away. When the sirens started Monday, I was standing in my front yard talking to a friend. At first I didn’t even register the keening, but almost immediately it became an uncountable number of sirens. Police sirens and fire engine sirens and the heart-chilling sound of ambulance sirens.

For two hours, Governor Lee, it was nothing but sirens. Sirens going and sirens coming. Sirens loud enough to be heard indoors, and from every room in the house. Sirens in the background of every phone call that morning, as people kept checking in to compare notes. What have you heard?

That many sirens can mean only one thing, I knew, but I prayed with every cell in my body to be wrong about that. Please, God, not a school. There are so many schools in the first-ring suburbs — public and private schools, preschools and elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. Please, God, let it be none of them. Please, not one of them.

Do you know what people do after a sudden loss like this, Governor? They question every single choice they have ever made. They lie in the dark and wonder how one little shift in the trajectory of time might have led to some other outcome. Would a different school have been safer? What if I’d believed that story about a stomach ache? Should I have kept them home with me, never let them leave my side? Should I have quit my job and home-schooled them?

This is the heartbreak after the heartbreak — the way we all think it might have been our own fault somehow. Whatever terrible thing has happened, we find a way to make it our own fault. Everyone who has lived through a sudden loss knows that. I thought for sure you knew it, too.”  . . . . .

Esau McCaulley | How Can We Be a Country That Does This to Our Children? – The New York Times

Contributing Opinion Writer

“The formal clothes of children are endearing. Take a suit or a dress and shrink it down to a size appropriate for elementary school kids and the cuteness factor is undeniable. This is because we all know that ties, button-down shirts and stately dresses are not really the province of the young. Children belong in things that can get dirty, splashed by mud or ripped by sliding into second base or tussling with a classmate.

But tiny coffins? Of course, we revolt. Death is not supposed to visit the lives of our daughters in pigtails or stalk our sons who still have gaps in their teeth.

The parents of three young children at the Covenant School in Nashville now have to choose final outfits and coffins for their children because a shooter entered a school with assault-style rifles and a handgun.

The killer, who also took the lives of three adults at the school, was another in a long line of murderers whose ideologies vary as much as the objects of their violence: Asians, African Americans, Black church attendees, members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, former classmates, moviegoers, grocery shoppers and Christian school students and staff. The one thing that unites these killers is the easy access they had to weapons, owing to the laws that exist in our republic.”

How Big Law and Black Brooklyn Fueled Hakeem Jeffries’s Rise – The New York Times


“The campus at Binghamton University was in uproar. Whispers of outside agitators swirled among the mostly white student body. Security was heightened.

The source of the friction was the planned appearance of a polarizing Black studies professor who had referred to white people as “ice people” and accused “rich Jews” of financing the slave trade. Outraged Jewish students demanded the event be canceled; their Black peers were incensed over the potential censorship.

And wedged hard in the middle was Hakeem Jeffries.

As the political representative for the Black student group that invited the professor to the upstate New York campus, Mr. Jeffries, a 21-year-old college senior with a flattop and a dashiki, had the delicate task of cooling tensions while holding firm on the invitation. There was also another complication: The speaker, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, was his uncle.

The episode, in February 1992, was an early precursor of both the culture-war disputes now flashing across the country and the battles that Mr. Jeffries faces as the new leader of House Democrats. Republicans have begun resurfacing it to try to tie their new foil to his uncle’s more incendiary views, which he says he does not share.”