North Korea

That Otto Warmbier autopsy report will be quite the news item when it finally comes out. Apparently there was no evidence of botulism, and if there was any evidence of beatings or abuse of any sort, it’s likely to show up in the autopsy report. I’m surprised the North Koreans released him when he was so close to death. They’d rendered him brain dead already, you think they could have buried him somewhere and then executed the grave diggers, like were done to the hundreds who built Genghis Khan’s tomb, and then the guy who designed it. (Risky business, Mongol tomb building). But a nation that executes its prisoners by anti aircraft guns, mortars, rocket grenades and flamethrower probably doesn’t think much about autopsies. Instead they let Trump (or was it Dennis Rodman?) bring the still breathing body home to his parents to die among friends, family, and world class pathologists. The bizarre botulism explanation isn’t holding up (where do the North Koreans get these ideas? Quincy?) and if the kid’s sad corpse reveals any signs of the abuse that killed him–and it almost surely will–then we suddenly have ourselves a big giant foreign policy catastrophe on our hands. Let loose the pups of war, the curs upon the land. Fortunately, Defense Secretary Mattis (the one member of the Administration who didn’t kiss Trump’s ass in that kowtowing excuse of a cabinet meeting last week) just laid out in some detail how awful a war with North Korea would be to members of Congress.  Among other things, he said, you can kiss Seoul goodbye. Did the president hear the same information? Or more importantly, are there Trump properties in Seoul within range of Kim Jong-un’s guns? (Actually, there are.) Meanwhile, friends and family of Otto Warmbier watch as his body is lowered into the earth. His part in all this is all over, even as the plot thickens. It’s an incredibly sad story with a finish right out of old time radio. How will it end? Only the Shadow knows.

North_Korea statue

Apparently the Donald Trump statue, where the Washington Monument is now, will be even bigger, the biggest ever.

Pregnant woman shot by police

Here we go again. Seattle this time. “Pregnant woman shot dead by officers after police say she brandished knife.” Why the hell two cops would shoot a pregnant woman with a knife to pieces mystifies me as these things always do. Police training anymore emphasizes force protection at all costs, if a cop thinks he is being threatened his first responsibility is to fire as many shots as possible at the threat. If a cop thinks another member of the force is being threatened his duty is also to shoot as many shots as possible. And you don’t even have to threaten the cop. If the cop thinks he is being threatened that is also a justifiable reason for killing someone. Juries have made that clear in decision after decision. If somehow this ever went to court (and there is a very slim chance of that) a jury will almost inevitably give the cop the benefit of the doubt. Neither officer attempted to grab the knife, or even to shoot her in the legs (nor are they supposed to shoot to wound, but always shoot to kill.) Nor did they Taser her. They went from zero to fatal in a couple seconds. Had a private security guard done the same he’d be in jail. Had a private citizen blown her away under the exact same circumstances (she picks up a knife and you shoot her a few seconds later) you might as well throw away the key. Shooting in self defense is allowed in Washington state, as it is in California, but the circumstances making it your duty to retreat and not fire are strict and this would not likely qualify as justifiable homicide for a private citizen and certainly not for two privates citizens firing multiple shots at the same time. Citizens and cops are judged by two very different legal traditions. You are assumed to have murdered unless a clear cut case of self-defense can be proven. A police officer lierally has a license to kill. Most, of course, will never kill anyone. Most never even fire their guns in anger. And there are limits to that license to kill. A police officer, like you and I, cannot murder with forethought. And a police officer cannot just kill anyone at anytime for little reason. But if an officer feels threatened or is under the notion that he is threatened, whether that notion is true or not, he can shoot to kill. Indeed, he is supposed to shoot to kill. And right now that power to shoot to kill is stronger than it has been in a long, long time, due to the stunning decisions by a series of juries.

And then there is the problem of why cops use maximum force against black people far more than against non-black people. The pregnant woman had mental health issues. And she did have a criminal history (what we do not yet know), and was just out of jail, so the cops went in thinking she could be violent, I suppose. But skin color seems to have been the deciding factor in whether one tases or unloads your service revolvers, as it always does. You are far more likely to be shot by police if a black male than if you are a black female, but black females are far more likely to be shot than any other females. African-Americans, for whatever reasons, are by far the most likely ethnic group to be shot and killed by police. Doesn’t matter if they were born here or in the Caribbean or in Africa or wherever. Doesn’t matter their income level, or education, or even if they are a police office out of uniform. If you are black you are far more likely to be shot by a police than if you are white, or Hispanic or Asian or whatever. Police culture has built in biases (probably going back deep into the 19th century, at least) and I wonder if they are even aware of them, and as long as juries keep telling itchy trigger fingered cops (of all races, incidentally, though the two in Seattle were white) that it’s OK to keep shooting people and in particular black people like this, it’ll continue.

This will certainly explode into a huge issue. Again. The public will be stunned, and a jury, in the incredibly unlikely event this was found to be unjustified by the police themselves and the district attorney, will side with the officers, as they do over ninety per cent of the time. All the police body cams and cruiser cams and people filming with their cell phones matters nought, as this is no longer about police shooting someone who is not a seriously mortal threat but whether or not a cop thinks that person was a threat when they shot him. You can have a thousand witnesses attesting to the fact that a harmless, unarmed man was shot and it will not matter because all that counts is what the officer perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be a mortal threat. Worse yet, the standard has slipped from being a threat to being a potential threat. These past several acquittals in police shooting cases have established that if an officer thinks that a person could conceivably be a threat, and can present evidence of how the shooting officer could have seen the shooting victim to be a potential threat even if the victim did not do anything threatening at all, then shooting that person before he becomes a threat is justifiable homicide. That is a helluva leap. Like shooting a dog because you thought it could be rabid. The standard of justification for a police officer to kill a person has now dropped to a very low level. No matter how wrong a cop’s judgement can be, a jury in all likelihood (probably well over 90% of the time) will conclude that the cop felt threatened and therefore was obligated to shoot to kill. The last few acquittals have solidified this idea. A cop’s right to shoot to kill under just about any circumstances been thoroughly grounded in legal precedent going back a decade, and a cop’s right to shoot and kill black people far out of line with their percentage of the population cannot be questioned. Shoot a white person it’ll be a much harder case for the police. Shoot a Hispanic is easier to justify than shooting a white but still, it’s not as safe a bet as shooting an unarmed black person. When a jury in liberal St. Paul, Minnesota established that fact, it’s pretty much law across the country. So shooting a pregnant African American woman wielding a knife and who was just in jail a few days before is a given. If you can shoot unarmed, cooperating black males and get away with it, shooting an unhinged black woman with child and a knife and a criminal record is just part of the job description. Or so a jury would tell you. Most cops wouldn’t, I am pretty sure. They certainly would have some reservations. There is a reason that so few cops ever shoot anybody. But then this isn’t up to most cops. This is up to juries, and in nearly every case they seem to have no reservations at all.

As a footnote on the hypothetical consider this: had Charleena Lyles lived, somehow, and the unborn baby died, she would probably have been charged with murdering her unborn child. At least we are spared that.

Here’s the police recording. The conversation seems calm, and you can hear a child throughout. She suddenly gets angry at the end, the cops yell get back a few times, and then there are the shots. Inexplicable how it went south so fast, or why they shot her instead of tasing. Come to your own conclusions.

Theresa May is no Churchill, but then Churchill was no Atlee.

Grenfell Tower Fire is being compared politically to Hurricane Katrina, with Theresa May as George Bush and her refusal to meet survivors compared to Bush’s flyover of New Orleans. The Conservatives were already in severe trouble, this could make it infinitely worse. They have to dump May as soon as possible and replace her with someone her complete opposite temperamentally. Alas, Churchills do not grow on trees. And even if one could be plucked from a tree, we sometimes forget how Churchill’s government was itself defeated in a landslide by Clement Atlee’s Labour Party in 1945, before the war was even over. Fortunately for the Conservatives, Corbyn is no Atlee. Atlee had viable ideas. Corbyn’s are mostly pie in the sky. It’s hard to imagine Corbyn repeating Atlee’s success, but it is possible to imagine today’s Conservative Party being viewed by most English voters as being as out of touch as Churchill was once the war with Nazi Germany was won. Which makes Grenfell Tower such a minefield for Theresa May and her party. A minefield no one knew was even there and that suddenly she finds herself in the middle of. Any misstep could have calamitous consequences and she already made one when she refused to meet with survivors–many of them mideastern, many from Syria–due to “security concerns”. Very Trumpian, that. The nonegenarian queen had no such fears and was down there today commiserating with victims. When the queen shows greater love for her subjects than the prime minister and her party have, things can only get worse. Meanwhile, May says her main focus is on Brexit…. which someone in her own party said will be the Conservative’s Paschendaele. We have no metaphor in the US like Paschendaele, the nightmarish quagmire in Flanders fields where poppies blow between the crosses row on row. We never had that sort of war. But it means that the Conservatives expect the Brexit negotiations and the battle over them in Parliament to be politically costly and brutal and leave the Conservative Party a husk of what was there only a few months ago. And that statement was made before the Grenville Tower fire. The Conservatives might find Grenfell an albatross, if not a burning tire, around their necks. The Conservative Party hangs onto power by a thread (with the help of the archconservative and racist anti-Irish Catholic allies from Ulster). Should they somehow lose the loyalty of a few members of parliament–how I do not know, but let’s pretend–and Corbyn assemble a majority coalition and become prime minister, I believe he would then have the right to call a snap election. And given the current political climate, and it only gets more so now after Grenfell, Labour would almost be assured a decisive win and everything would change. Everything. It’d be like July 1945 all over again, when Clement Atlee created the modern welfare state, as dramatically as FDR created the New Deal. Bernie Sanders would be a prophet, he was just in the wrong country.

grenfell-tower-fire-getty-images-2364-hero

Grenfell Tower stands like a monument to an upper class that just doesn’t care.

The New Deal plus Reaganomics equals too many luxury hotels.

Just saw that Bergamont Station is being plowed under to make way for, you guessed it, another luxury hotel. As if Santa Monica has a desperate need for another luxury hotel. It’s nothing but luxury hotels. But the thing about luxury hotels is that they provide enormous tax revenue for a city, and so the more the GOP cuts the federal budget of funds that would eventually (mostly via the state) make their way down to cities to pay for services, the more cities are reliant on big businesses like luxury hotels to provide local tax revenue. And the more city services and urban planning a city engages in, the more it needs the revenue of things like luxury hotels. Quality of life is expensive, and quality of life in a place like Santa Monica is very expensive. People who live there expect the city to provide very nice things. Which means a city like Santa Monica needs to come up with lots of tax revenue. To the City of Santa Monica, Bergamont Station was a big hole that didn’t make bring in much tax revenue. Fill that hole with a luxury hotel and revenue comes pouring in. So some of the worst offenders of tearing down small businesses and replacing them with mega developments are often progressive cities like Santa Monica that provide a wide array of city and social services. I watched Glendale do the same thing, tearing down all these little mom and pop places and replacing them with the then highly profitable shopping malls. What happens now that shopping malls are closing down I do not know. Nor do I know what will happen when there are not enough tourists and business groups to fill luxury hotels. But in the meantime mom and pop businesses and creative spaces like Bergamont Station are seized by eminent domain and leveled to make way for rich people spending lots of money. The city can pay its bills, provide social services, fix streets, build libraries and put on summer concert series. We’ve come to accept all this as necessary. A lot of people get hurt. More people get helped. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. It’s all quite logical and very Vulcan. It’s a very mid-20th century sort of thinking that goes back to the New Deal, actually, the same sort of thinking that condemned whole neighborhoods and replaced them with shiny identical apartment towers with affordable rents. That is the justification for tearing down Bergamont Station, anyway. Leveling a popular art colony and cultural hang and replacing it with a hotel that can help Santa Monica pay its bills. But that need to tear it down, the reason that Santa Monica needs to tear beautiful spaces like Bergamont Station down and build a hotel is due to late 20th century Republican fiscal policy. Tax cutting Reaganomics. Cut taxes, cut the budget, reduce pay outs to state and local governments and voila, Santa Monica needs to find a revenue stream, quick. Every city in America, big and small, is facing the same problem. Combine New Deal social policy and Reaganomics fiscal policy and instead of affordable apartments you wind up with way too many luxury hotels none of us can afford to stay in. I wonder what Robert Moses would say. He might think Boss Tweed was running things again. He might be right.

Kamala Harris

Apparently Kamala will be running for president in 2020. Her grandstanding in the Senate when the TV cameras are rolling were on had me wondering, but this clinches it. A Courage Not Courtesy sticker. First term Senator JFK had to write a book called Profiles in Courage. A whole book. As did first term senator Barack Obama. Apparently Senator Harris figures you can get by with a sticker. It’s a meme’s world.

Courage Not Courtesy

Supplies are limited, her post says, get your sticker today.

I assume she thinks you need a show biz schtick to run for president, an image. Barack’s was being thoughtful. Kamala’s is being rude but courageous? What’s she gonna do next, punch a Nazi?

Hopefully she tones down the aggro and gets down to work. Like she did in California. She was hard working, results driven and principled. That’s why I’d been a loyal supporter for years. But her brand new Trump inspired obnoxious shit doesn’t impress me. It’s probably not impressing a lot of people. It’s certainly not impressing the press, who I imagine expected a much classier act. Progressives seem to love it, though. Show biz.

The press has never been this famous

No TV, so I was listening to a bit of the coverage of the James Comey hearing on KPCC just now and it’s not exactly a murderers’ row of famous journalists and analysts. Competition must be fierce and KPCC is down to the D listers. Anybody who is nobody is on TV or the radio or online somewhere experting away. What an exciting time to be a reporter. The press has never been this famous. I mean, all these journalists are rock stars now. They tweet like mad and write long pieces we all read the first paragraph of. They show up on TV daily. They have unnamed sources to die for. They pal around with movie stars and directors. Imagine the perks and the swag and the people who want to meet them, to touch them, to take a selfie with them. Living the reporter’s dream. A Pulitzer. A bestseller. George Clooney playing you in the movie. I confess I always wanted to be a political reporter. Alas I was born too late for Watergate and too early for Trump. It’s all in the timing. People loathed the press only a year ago, mistrusted them, assumed everything it said was a lie. That was then. Now it’s Beatlemania for reporters. I watch these guys on those giant CNN panels and I think to myself man, I bet they’re getting laid like crazy. Maybe not a second time but still, they’re getting laid like crazy.

The ordeal of Kathy Griffin

The self-crucifixion of Kathy Griffin has nothing to do with political correctness. It has to do with a Hollywood egomaniac who went way over the line (when it was Obama in a sniper target you all flipped out), and then had the pathetic audacity to claim that she was some sort of victim, trying to make herself the martyr of the resistance, knowing how much money that might mean. She dominated the news for a day or three, burying whole news cycles of genuine tales of horrors that Trump is inflicting upon the Constitution, working people, women, children and the poor. Her publicist must have been thrilled to death. But real blood on London sidewalks popped that balloon real quick. Nothing makes stage blood look sillier than real blood. Her publicist must have despaired. Damn that ISIS anyway, stepping on Kathy’s big finish. It’s too bad reality isn’t happening on a Hollywood set. Too bad reality ain’t reality TV. But maybe Hollywood should stop trying to score ratings and higher ticket prices by loudly announcing themselves as our consciences. We don’t need celebrities to tell us how to think. We don’t need comics to feel our pain. You have to be goddamned fool to think that Jim Carrey proclaiming that comedians are the last line of resistance against Trump is anything more than celebrity ego inflated to the size of the Hindenburg. Oh the humanity.

Kathy Griffin And Her Attorney Lisa Bloom Hold Press Conference

Oh Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me?