They’d be dead if they were black (Updated)

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(NBC News photo)

 

Does anybody really believe that if a gang of black men strolled into the middle of the protests in Ferguson, MO, wearing camo, body armor, and carrying high-powered semiautomatic rifles they’d be greeted by local law enforcement with the open arms and camaraderie that were extended to the Oath Keepers?

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Oath Keepers are an anti-government self-proclaimed citizen militia, a “Patriot” group founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, an Army veteran and graduate of Yale Law School. The group is a …

… rapidly growing organization comprised mostly of active-duty police and military, as well as veterans, who fret about things like gun control and the much-feared “New World Order.” Members swear (a second time) to uphold their oath to the Constitution and not to obey orders they think conflict with that. Among those orders (10 “Orders We Will Not Obey” are listed on the Oath Keepers website): Imposing martial law or a state of emergency on a state, and forcing those who resist into detention camps.

As the Guardian newspaper reported, at the same time the Oath Keepers were openly displaying their paramilitary firepower,

a group of at least three black men who were standing by a car next to a hair salon on West Florissant Avenue were arrested after a phalanx of St Louis County police surged towards them, using pepper spray and batons. A spokesman for police department told the Guardian by email on Tuesday that officers had received information “that the occupants or folks near that vehicle were possibly armed with handguns”.

But the spokesman later confirmed that none of those arrested during the swoop were in possession of any weapons.

Call me naive, but if the Oath Keepers were black I doubt we would have seen them standing shoulder to shoulder with local police. We instead would have seen a firefight and a bloodbath on the streets of Ferguson.

And the cops would have been the first to pull the trigger.

**Update**

Vox has an explainer up on the Oath Keepers, including a list of the 10 “Orders We Will Not Obey”:

  1. We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.
  2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people.
  3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.
  4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.
  5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.
  6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
  7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.
  8. We will NOT obey any orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on US soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control.”
  9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.
  10. We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

 

Daddy issues

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I finally got around to watching the finale of season two of HBO’s True Detective last night. While the critics were not kind to its occasionally wooden dialogue and disjointed array of plots, subplots, and more red herrings than the grocery aisle of your local Ikea, I enjoyed it.

While season two never quite managed to live up to the stylish vibe of the creepy Southern Gothic first season, it did have more enough of the Raymond Chandler L.A. noir sensibility to reinforce my determination never to live in California. If any show has ever succeeded in making California look like one of the nine circles of Hell, this one was it.

What this season had going for it, beyond compelling style, was the persistent theme of fathers and the damage they can do to their children that accounted for the deep flaws of  each of True Detective’s major characters.  Here’s a quick rundown of how that all played out. Spoilers ensue, but I’m not going to worry about that since at this point I figure that anyone who cares has already seen the finale.

  • Ben Caspere — Corrupt and debauched Vinci city manager whose murder at the beginning of the show was the series’ first and longest-running red herring. Killed by the illegitimate children he fathered and then orphaned, surrendering them to a childhood of foster care, abuse, and prostitution.
  • Austin Chesanni — Corrupt and debauched mayor of Vinci who inherited both his office and his father’s particular appetites. Killed and replaced in office by his own psycho pimp of a son.
  • Ray Velcoro — Corrupt Vinci cop struggling to live up to his cop father’s example. Beat to death the man he thought raped his wife, then adopted a parenting style toward his own in which he confused bullying with love.
  • Ani Bezzerides — Cop with a violent streak, proclivity for knives, and taste for aggressive sex. As a child abducted and raped while under the watchful care of her hippie guru father.
  • Frank Semyon — Gangster dealing with repeatedly unsuccessful infertility treatments whose cartoonish, cliched tough-guy attitude and violence compensates for the insecurity borne of years of psychological abuse at the hands of his father.
  • Paul Woodrugh — Cop, closeted and in denial about his sexuality, abandoned by his father as a child, his physical scars telegraph his psychic wounds. Determined not to abandon his own unborn child. Gunned down by other corrupt cops, he gets a highway named for him. His child is there for the unveiling.

So there you have it. Eight episodes in which we get to watch the wreckage of disastrously dysfunctional father-child relations play out as noir crime drama.

And we’re finally done with the world’s most morose bar singer. She won’t be missed.

 

One compromise with Republican orthodoxy Sinn Fein won’t make

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In a long interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, former IRA chief of staff and one of the stalwarts of Sinn Fein’s peace strategy, stood firm on one of the few pillars of traditional Republican orthodoxy still standing.

Asked if Sinn Fein would take its seats at Westminster in the event that a friendly Labour government needed its support in parliament, McGuinness was adamant:

No. Our position has been on the record for many decades and I don’t envisage any change whatsoever; there is no mood for it within the party. Quite apart from the principle involved it could damage the cohesion of mainstream republicanism. I think that is not something that a leadership that has been very precious about cohesiveness would contemplate.

He denied that this position was underpinned by fear of a backlash from Sinn Fein supporters who up until now have gone along with every compromise the party’s leadership has made, from declaring a permanent end to the armed campaign, standing down the IRA, decommissioning weapons, to recognizing the legitimacy of the PSNI, taking seats in the partitionist institutions of Stormont and Leinster House, and administering British rule as partners in government with the DUP.

That is not the reason. The reason is that we have a principled republican position. Politicians are criticised left, right and centre for not having principled positions but on this matter we don’t see any advantage in change either. The negotiations that I have been involved in with successive British Prime Ministers over the the last 20-odd years have borne more fruit than me being the MP for Mid Ulster. I had more access than many Labour and Conservative backbenchers had.

So that settles it then. This is the one Republican principle left on which the party stands firm. Until it doesn’t.

And that time will come, as McGuinness unwittingly acknowledged, when the party’s leaders no longer see any advantage in leaving the last pillar of Republican orthodoxy standing.

 

 

A year since Ferguson: What’s changed? (Updated)

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Too damn little, that’s for sure.

As the Washington Post reported this weekend, unarmed black men are seven times more likely to die by police gunfire than are any other group. As the Post shows, the statistics are damning:

So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.

Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.

However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.

Even if Michael Brown’s death “ushered in the greatest national reckoning on racism since the beating of Rodney King,” it’s easy to conclude that despite the hashtags, breast beating, and protest movements, black lives don’t really matter.

The criminal justice system, at every phase, seems systematically stacked against African Americans.

The Republicans jockeying to be their party’s nominees for president couldn’t be bothered to talk about race  in their first debate. The Democrats are little better.

The Post’s report is long, detailed, and depressing. It is well worth your time.

**Update**

The last two nights in Ferguson have been tense. On Sunday night protesters clashed repeatedly with police. Bottles and rocks were thrown and shots were fired. An 18-year-old St. Louis man was in critical condition in the hospital after being shot by police who charge he had first fired on them.

Monday night a state of emergency was declared in Ferguson, and scores of police flooded the area where a year ago Michael Brown was killed. Although there was minor violence, the disturbances did not escalate, and by early this morning the situation was described as generally peaceful.

There is real question as to whether the calm will last. Adding to the concern and uncertainty is the presence of a so-called citizen militia called the Oath Keepers who have arrived on the scene openly carrying rifles on the streets. Police are wary, as are protesters. As one told the New York Times:

We don’t trust them … We don’t trust the white people with assault rifles. They didn’t bring one black person with them, and they walked up on us like they’re asserting their white privilege.

The New York Times story this morning fills in more details.