Got No Baum — But Still Dead


Contortionists worldwide must be mourning the death of Carol Anne Gotbaum. She was an artist of unparalleled talent, if you believe the cops who arrested, trussed, and imprisoned her at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. She died in their custody last Friday because “[she] had possibly tried to manipulate the handcuffs from behind her to the front, got tangled up in the process and they ended up around her neck,” according to Sgt. Andy Hill.

Go ahead: try it. Hold your hands behind your back and raise them. Now you truly appreciate Mrs. Gotbaum’s unbelievable skill: it’s impossible to lift your arms more than a few vertebrae upward. They won’t go anywhere near your neck.

Oddly, no account of Mrs. Gotbaum’s death mentions her prowess as a pretzel. We learn instead that she was 45, that she held an MBA from a South African university, and that she leaves behind "three very small children. It’s a very delicate matter,” her grieving mother-in-law told the New York Daily News.

"Delicate." Hmmm. Not exactly the word I’d use.

Mrs. Gotbaum was late for a flight on US Airways Express Friday afternoon. Don’t even think of blaming the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its senseless checkpoint charade; tardiness is always our fault, as the TSA’s website explains: "Be prepared and plan ahead for security. Passenger preparedness for the security process can have a significant impact on wait times at the checkpoint."

Nevertheless, something — and it’s a good bet those "wait times" played a significant part — kept Mrs. Gotbaum from reaching her gate until "the plane was already preparing to depart." She then made the fatal mistake of complaining rather than kowtowing when USA Airways personnel prohibited her from boarding. Thanks to the laws deputizing airline crews, most passengers smile and shuffle no matter how abusive those uniformed bullies become. Not Mrs. Gotbaum. As a customer who’d bought a seat on a plane still sitting at the gate, she apparently thought that the airline should accommodate her.

Since Mrs. Gotbaum isn’t here to defend herself, we have only the word of US Airways and the cops on what happened now. "She was rebooked on the next flight, but u2018she became extremely irate, apparently running up and down the gate area,’" according to Derek Hanna of US Airways.

That’s a no-no. The aviation industry no longer tolerates any reaction but subservience. It tacitly equates rage at its abuses with terrorism. This allows its myrmidons to call the cops when customers vent their frustration.

We aren’t told how many thugs piled on to subdue a 45-year-old mother of three. "Airport workers… said one cop put his knee in her back to restrain her while others grabbed her flailing arms." The New York Daily News quoted a witness: “I believe she was a little not-there. She kept punching. She kept screaming. She kept kicking. She looked really scared, really frightened. I think she was afraid to go to jail.”

Meanwhile, poor Mrs. Gotbaum labored under another illusion as fatal as her belief that airlines should treat customers like customers: the totalitarianism at airports is meant to catch terrorists rather than to intimidate citizens while conditioning them to government searches. And so she sought to set her captors straight. “I’m not a terrorist! I’m a sick mom! I need help!" she "yelled."

Wanna bet the cops laughed at her navet as they hauled her off to a cell? But Mrs. Gotbaum didn’t go gently into that dark night. Her kidnappers say she screamed and kept on screaming.

Astonishing, the mettle required of police. We civilians would feel responsible for traumatizing a fellow human being so badly that she shrieks without intermission. We’d try to relieve her distress by releasing her. Not Phoenix’s finest. They contented themselves with "[coming] in to check on Gotbaum every fifteen minutes. About five to 10 minutes had passed and the officers had not heard Gotbaum’s voice, so someone came in to check on her, according to police." A woman healthy enough to "run up and down the gate area" an hour or two before now lay "unconscious and not breathing. Paramedics were unable to revive her." But "authorities" assure us that "neither a Taser nor pepper spray was used on the woman." Uh-huh.

Not counting crashes, this is the second fatality to American aviation’s credit since 9/11. Air marshals killed a 44-year-old missionary in December 2005 when they shot Rigoberto Alpizar in a jetway. Mr. Alpizar had changed his mind about flying and tried to disembark from a flight preparing to leave Miami. Two marshals followed him off the plane and slaughtered him. They claimed he was shouting about a bomb. Other passengers aboard the flight flatly denied that. Many insisted the only time they heard the b-word was when authorities later questioned them.

But the government’s version triumphed over the truth. Florida’s State Attorney refused to indict the marshals for murder; the White House even commended them. Those who never knew Mr. Alpizar as a "loving, gentle and caring husband, uncle, brother, son and friend" quickly forgot his death. He had no politically powerful relatives.

Mrs. Gotbaum does. Her mother-in-law is Betsy Gotbaum, a Democratic hack who’s pestered New York City for decades. Betsy now reigns as Public Advocate — an office one step below the mayor’s. When she says, "We are very concerned about what happened at Phoenix airport. It’s under investigation and we are following that investigation," goons in Arizona tremble. They know that enforcers in a police state can murder folks like Rigoberto Alpizar with impunity. But snuffing a politician’s family or friends…that’s as big a no-no as a passenger’s protesting shoddy service.

Betsy’s got them sweating so profusely that spokesman Andy Hill was out there again, trying to bolster their lie. This time he wants us to believe that contortionists are a dime a dozen and even less law-abiding than your average serf: "’There are many people that are able to get handcuffs around their back and get them up and around,’" Hill said. "How the handcuffs u2018got placed on that neck area…we don’t know yet.’"

Ah, but something tells me we soon will.