Tag Archives: criminal justice

Cops’ first robo-killing is probably the scariest part of a week full of horrors

Corrected below (on Monday, July 11, 2016)

Last night in Dallas, Texas, cops for the first time ever used a robot to kill a perp on American soil, actually claiming that it was the only way. If we let this horrific abuse of police power pass, do we civilians not face routine robo-killings by the thugs of the state in the future? (Above is pictured one of the cops’ killing machines from the original movie “Robocop.”)

What a spectacularly fucked-up week it was, just after the Independence Day holiday on Monday, ironically.

The shooting deaths on Tuesday and on Wednesday of 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and 32-year-old Philando Castile near St. Paul, Minnesota, both of them black men, by white cops sure looked unnecessary.

It’s true that we don’t have every piece of information, and nor do we have full video footage of everything from beginning to end — the Sterling videos that I have seen start just before he is shot to death in a parking lot, and the Castile video starts after he already has been shot in a car (and is dying) — and the officers involved in the shootings deserve to be tried in real courts of law, not in the court of public opinion (which these days is held largely if not mostly on the Internet), but from what we know thus far, the shootings sure appear to have been wholly unnecessary.

My best guess is that these were spooked, adrenalized cops who were too trigger-happy, and, in a society in which black men’s lives are at the bottom of the pecking order where the value of human life is concerned, these cops just weren’t very concerned about not shooting first and asking questions later.

Then came the shooting deaths of five cops last night in Dallas (not far from where JFK was assassinated) by an-as-far-as-we-know-right-now militarily trained lone wolf, 25-year-old Micah Johnson, a black man of the Dallas area who reportedly had claimed that he especially wanted to kill white cops for the wrongful killings of black men by white cops.

On NPR today I heard the head of the nation’s largest cops’ union embarrass himself by stating that the shootings of cops because they are cops need to be treated as hate crimes. 

He further embarrassed himself by actually stating that just as we shouldn’t hate others because of the color of their skin, we shouldn’t hate anyone because of the color of his or her uniform (yes, he actually used those incredibly corny words). He asserted this as though the problem that so many of us have had with our cops actually were the color of their uniforms, or, OK, the fact in and of itself that they are cops — and not, oh, say, their rampant abuse of power and deadly force, such as by blowing away unarmed or otherwise non-threatening black men and by otherwise abusing their power against people of color and other vulnerable minorities.

The cops have had a long history of abusing their power in the United States of America. Many of them have been little more than state-sanctioned thugs, and let’s face it: The cops’ main job is to maintain the socioeconomic status quo, a status quo that isn’t about liberty and justice for all.

That said, don’t get me wrong; I don’t advocate the killing of one member of a group because you’re pissed off at another member of that group, be that group a racial group, a religious group, an occupational group, or any other group of people. I believe that we must deal with individuals, and not with entire groups of people. Micah Johnson’s “logic” that because two white cops in Louisiana and in Minnesota apparently unnecessarily killed — maybe murdered (well, maybe it was manslaughter; it’s all in the intent) — two black men, he should kill cops (especially white cops) in Texas speaks for itself.

And let’s be clear in our thinking and in our words: Blacks didn’t kill those cops in Dallas; one apparently mentally ill, or at the very least seriously unhinged, young black man did. (I don’t assert that Johnson had no legitimate grievances, but murdering random cops because they’re cops isn’t OK.) And all (white) cops did not kill Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (and way too many others); specific (white) cops killed them.

The problem is when we hold an entire group of people guilty for the acts of a relative few. It’s a mistake that often has deadly consequences and that can spiral into something like a civil war.

On the issue of hate crimes, I don’t argue that Micah Johnson didn’t hate cops; he very apparently did. (Again, I don’t argue that he had no grounds for his hatred; I only point out that he apparently had that hatred.)

But let’s be crystal fucking clear on what a hate crime is. Wikipedia defines a hate crime thusly:

A hate crime … is a prejudice-motivated crime, often violent, which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group.

Examples of such groups can include but are not limited to: sex, ethnicity, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation. …

“Hate crime” generally refers to criminal acts that are seen to have been motivated by bias against one or more of the types above, or of their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, … or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail).

Cops aren’t listed among the groups that so often are targeted in hate crimes, and implied but not explicitly spelled out in Wikipedia’s entry on hate crimes is the power differential that we have seen in the vast majority of hate crimes committed in the United States of America.

Whites who have committed hate crimes against blacks, for example, usually have far outnumbered blacks; ditto for “Christians” who have far outnumbered Jews and Muslims; heterosexuals and gender-conforming individuals who have far outnumbered non-heterosexual and non-gender-conforming individuals; etc. With the vast majority of hate crimes, it’s the relatively powerful who are targeting the less powerful to even the relatively powerless.

One thing that we can’t say about cops is that they are relatively powerless compared to the general population. Um, they are not. Sure, we commoners far outnumber the cops, but most of us commoners don’t have their arsenals or their training — or their being backed up by the U.S. military if they need such backup. (All of this is made possible with our own tax dollars, but that’s another blog piece.) And, of course, the cops often if not usually have the full cover of the “justice” system should they ever actually be held to account in a court of law. And, of course, they know this fact even before they unnecessarily shoot someone to death, carelessly (manslaughter) or even intentionally (murder).

Therefore, call what Micah Johnson did last night in Dallas an act of terrorism — the use of fear and/or violence to try to achieve a political objective — but let’s not fucking call it a hate crime and by so doing shit and piss on all actual victims of actual hate crimes, past, present and future.

Let’s not buy the cops’ union thugs’ bullshit rhetoric that cops (as a group) now are the poor victims when American history is filled with incidents of cops’ thuggery against the populace, usually the relatively powerless.

Clearly, having had the first black man in the Oval Office hasn’t magically solved our problems. We, the people, have much work to do, primary among which is to devise non-lethal ways of neutralizing individuals whom cops deem need to be neutralized. It’s unfuckingacceptable that shooting someone in the year 2016 still is seen as an acceptable way of neutralizing him or her.

With the technology that we have, we should have solved this problem years ago.

On that note, we, the people, also must NOT allow state-sanctioned killing by robot to become the norm.

The cops in Dallas last night killed Micah Johnson by affixing a bomb to a robot, directing the robot to Johnson’s vicinity, and then detonating the bomb. It was the first time that cops anywhere on U.S. soil used a robot to kill someone.*

What the fucking fuck?

A robot that can deliver a bomb can’t deliver a tranquilizer dart or a knock-out gas? Really? Blowing Micah Johnson up via R2-D2 was the cops’ only option?

No, the cops blew Johnson up because he’d killed cops, and they wanted their instant revenge on him. The actual justice (well, “justice”) system might have allowed him to live, so they, the cops, had to be the prosecutors, judges, juries and executioners, you see.

And by so doing, the cops only further demonstrated last night that they have become a serious problem that we, the people, need to solve — lest the cops’ killer robots come for us next.

Correction (Monday, July 11, 2016): My bad: Apparently the cop who shot Philando Castile to death is Mexican American, not white. (In the viral video, only the cop’s forearms are visible, and he is light-skinned, so I’d thought that he was white.)

This is a rather ironic photo of the cop:

St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6, 2016, is shown taking part in the Standing of the Memorial Guard event during Law Enforcement Memorial Day and National Peace Officer's Day at the Minnesota Capitol in May 2014. (Courtesy of city of Falcon Heights)

(No, it’s not a Photoshop job. It was taken two years ago and it’s from here.)

The cop, named Jeronimo Yanez, has claimed, via his attorney, “This had nothing to do with race. This had everything to do with the presence of a gun.” (Of course, it’s not like any cop actually would admit it if his [or her] shooting death of someone had been racially motivated…)

Our society’s racial pecking order is fairly ingrained, it seems to me, and we can internalize and act out that pecking order unconsciously, methinks.

I just can’t imagine Philando Castile having been shot to death as he was had he been white (or perhaps Asian or Latino).

*NPR quotes a subject-matter expert as saying that bombs/explosive devices affixed to robotic devices have been used by the U.S. military in Iraq, but that last night’s was the first such use here on American soil.

Indeed, our police are becoming more and more militarized, and we, the people, fail to put a stop to this anti-constitutional bullshit at our own peril.

I vehemently oppose the use of armed/weaponized robots or drones to kill civilians on American soil — and their use in all other nations should be prohibited as well.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Since when have we been at war with Dagestan? (Or, Orwell was right)

Updated below

No doubt, justice needs to be done in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Branding and then handling 19-year-old American citizen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an “enemy combatant,” however, would not serve justice. Quite the opposite.

It is the idea of the Gang of the Three — U.S. Sen. John McCainosaurus of Arizona, closet case U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and newbie fascist U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — along with brazen Islamophobe U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York, who also is a fucking joke of a statesman — that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be treated as an “enemy combatant”Guantanamo style.

This isn’t about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or the victims of the Boston bombing, of course. This is about the opportunity for self-serving Repugnican Tea Party traitors to once again use the occasion of a national tragedy to grandstand and try to concentrate their personal and political power.

Because, as both George Orwell and George W. Bush (and, I will add, Adolf Hitler, even though we’re never to mention him anymore because it’s always hyperbolic to do so, right?) taught us very well, there’s nothing like exploiting a nation’s fear in order to create hatred with which to fascistically consolidate your political power.

John McCainosaurus still wants us Americans to know what a huge “mistake” we made when we overwhelmingly elected Barack Obama over him in 2008 (McCainosaurus won only 45.7 percent of the popular vote and only 173 electoral votes to Obama’s 52.9 percent of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes).

McCainosaurus, our self-appointed shadow president, still is raging that the much younger, uppity black guy who didn’t have Vietnam-era POW status to shamelessly exploit for political gain (“I was a POW, so I deserve [fill in the blank]”) won the White House that McCainosaurus deserved. It was McCainosaurus’! He was robbed!

And McCainosaurus also wants to remain politically relevant in the increasingly insanely right-wing state of Arizona, the South Africa of the Southwest.

Speaking of racists, Lindsey Graham hails from the first state that seceded from the Union before abolitionist Abraham Lincoln even was inaugurated.

Graham, a “bachelor” who obviously is gay (I’m gay, but unlike the evil loser Graham, I’m not in the fucking closet), obviously is overcompensating with the right-wing fascism thing because he doesn’t want his homophobic, backasswards state’s attention turned to his sexual orientation, which would be disastrous for his next election. It’s a psychology-textbook case.

Kelly Ayotte, who usually is just window dressing at McCainosaurus’ and Graham’s public pronouncements — three U.S. senators supposedly in agreement with each other looks better than two, and perhaps the addition of the junior senator from the blue state of New Hampshire is meant to offset the fact that McCainosaurus and Little Gay Boy Graham come from two of our reddest states — is only in her third year in the Senate, but apparently she believes that her association with the crusty McCainosaurus and the mincing Graham will pay off in her political future.

Peter King, a real piece of shit, is most known for his blatant support of the terrorist Irish Republican Army — because he’s of Irish descent, and so of course they can’t be terrorists — while he alleges that it’s the Muslims who are the real terrorists.

His repeated attacks on Muslims, culminating in his 2011 “hearings” on Exactly How Evil and Dangerous Muslims in the United States Are — I use quotation marks because an Islamophobe conducting a “hearing” on anything Islam-related isn’t there to hear anything, but is only there to pontificate the conclusions that he drew long before the “hearing” began — did nothing for “national security,” but only inflamed relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States.

Which is what King and his piece-of-shit ilk want, of course. They create the very same hatred that quite predictably results in terrorist attacks and at the very same time proclaim that they are going to keep us safe from terrorist attacks. They want to perpetuate the problem that they claim they are the best ones to solve.

They call themselves patriots. I call them traitors, because their insatiable quest for more and more personal and political power only gets more and more Americans killed, and the only good traitor is an executed traitor.

I start off with the Gang of Three and the piece of shit Peter King because, as I said, it’s all about the Gang of Three and the piece of shit King.

For U.S. senators (and at least one U.S. representative) to actually publicly proclaim that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be treated as an “enemy combatant” already is creating an unfair and hostile environment in which the young man is to be tried for Monday’s twin bombings in Boston. His defense attorneys already can show that there is a threat to a fair trial for him.

Of course, it’s not a fair trial that the fascists of the Repugnican Tea Party want (after all, it’s someone else; why care about whether someone else gets a fair trial?). No, it’s more political power that they want.

Expanding the definition of an “enemy combatant” is a slippery slope to hell.

First, you twist and warp and pervert the definition of the word “war.” “War” no longer is a formally declared battle between two nations that will use their military forces to duke it out in a combat that presumedly will result in a “winner” and a “loser.” No, “war,” in Orwellian style, is whatever the fuck you say it is.

The Gang of Three and their ilk claim that We’re still at war! They love that shit. They have loved that 9/11 (which always was, is and always will be a terrorist attack and not part of any real or actual “war”) happened. It gave them, in their minds, a perma-enemy that they could milk for personal and political gain for infinity.

About a quarter of the human beings on the planet identify themselves as Muslims, and they are spread all over the world. If we are “at war” with these people, then obviously that “war,” very conveniently for the Repugnican Tea Party traitors and other assorted war-mongering fascists, never will fucking end.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is an American citizen who identifies himself as a Muslim. It is the religion that he was born into. You most likely would identify as a Muslim, too, if you also were born into a Muslim family and Muslim environment.

It’s true that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hasn’t been a U.S. citizen for even a full year, having become a citizen on September 11, 2012. (I don’t know if he chose that date for its symbolism or if those who put on the naturalization ceremony chose it for its symbolism or if it was coincidence or what.)

But even if he became a citizen just a week before Monday’s twin bomb attacks on the Boston Marathon, the fucking fact of the matter is that as an American citizen, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is protected by the Constitution of the United States of America.

And that means that he gets a fair fucking trial.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his now-dead older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, apparently grew up in Dagestan (which is next door to Chechnya, and like Chechnya, is a part of Russia) and in Kyrgyzstan (a central Asian nation that once was part of Russia but that now is independent, and that, like Chechnya and Dagestan, has a Muslim majority) before they came to the United States about a decade ago.

Their parents left the United States and returned to live Dagestan, where Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly visited (visiting one’s parents is not, um, an uncommon thing for a son or daughter to do) before he later apparently masterminded Monday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon. (I still surmise that the 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev dragged his impressionable younger brother into his plot.)

Tamerlan Tsarnaev wasn’t yet a U.S. citizen but reportedly had hoped to become one. But calling even him an “enemy combatant” (were he still alive) is utter bullshit, since we’re not at war with Dagestan (or with any other nation we know he visited after his family moved him to the United States), for fuck’s sake.

To call anyone (like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) who has been living in the United States for a fucking decade (or even longer) and who is a U.S. citizen an “enemy combatant” after he or she has been accused of having committed a crime here (yes, even an egregious crime) when the United States is not actually at war with any other nation also sends the message that No matter how long you’ve been here, you’re not a real American — even if you have gained American citizenship.

This dark path is diametrically opposed to the path that we should take, which is to give Dzhokhar Tsarnaev a fair criminal trial. (Under the Obama administration, that probably will happen, but with Obama’s frequent pandering to the right wing and his frequent blatant, Bush-regime-like disregard for the U.S. Constitution, of course we cannot take that for granted.)

We didn’t declare domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh an “enemy combatant” and then strip him of his constitutional rights, even though he slaughtered and injured far more people in Oklahoma City than the Tsarnaev brothers are accused of having slaughtered and injured in Boston. No, we gave McVeigh a fair fucking trial.

True, McVeigh’s 1995 crime preceded 9/11 and the post-9/11 hysteria, but the fact of the matter is that the label “enemy combatant” chiefly is to apply to those who aren’t Anglo and who weren’t born on American soil and to those who predominantly identify themselves as Muslims, and that’s some fucked-up shit, to have one system of “justice” for the Good Old Boys, the so-called “Christian” whiteys who were born here, and another system of “justice” for the rest of us, the so-called “enemy combatants.”

Once we can call even one American citizen an “enemy combatant” when that citizen is not actually an operative for an enemy nation during an actual war, then we can call any American citizen an “enemy combatant.”

Any American citizen who expresses any view and/or commits any act that those in power at the time don’t like can be deemed by the powers that be an “enemy combatant” with whom they then can do as they please in the sacrosanct names of “national security” and the “war” on “terror.”

Killer drones, of course, will make the elimination of such so-called “enemy combatants” as easy as playing a video game.

Today, American citizen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is proclaimed an “enemy combatant” who is stripped of his constitutional right to a fair trial and shipped off to Guantanamo or some other shrouded location, where God knows what will be done to him.

And you’re perfectly OK with that, because Hey, I saw the horrific images of the Boston bombing and I don’t ever want to get bombed! And Besides, you say, if you’re not guilty, then what do you have to be afraid of?

But tomorrow, like something out of George Orwell’s 1984, you say something to a fellow citizen that he or she perceives as unpatriotic. He or she dutifully reports you to the authorities as he or she repeatedly has been instructed to do by the authorities, and then the drones or the thugs come for you, you “enemy combatant,” and you are, as they say, disappeared.

Then, if you still are alive, as you sit in your tiny cell that is located God knows where, you kick the holy living shit out of yourself because  in 2013 you had had no problem whatsoever with American citizen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being called an “enemy combatant” and stripped of his constitutional rights.

Update (Monday, April, 22, 2013):

NBC News reports today:

The hospitalized Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was charged [today] with using a weapon of mass destruction – and the White House said he will be tried in a civilian court.

“He will not be treated as an enemy combatant. We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

“Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions. And it is important to remember that since 9/11 we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists.” …

Contrary to the wishes of the wingnuts, the U.S. Constitution prevails.

But of course the Obama White House just can’t resist pandering to the right — God forbid should Barack Obama be called weak. on. TERROR! — with the White House press secretary already proclaiming the suspect to be guilty by referring to him as “this terrorist” and heavily suggesting that “this terrorist,” too, will be convicted and incarcerated, has have “hundreds of [other] terrorists.”

Gee, in my Civics 101 class, I was taught that it is the job of the judicial branch, not the executive branch, to determine someone’s innocence or guilt.

This is why I couldn’t vote again for Barack Obama in November — he’s George W. Bush Lite.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized