Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kicking the Hollywood Jackass


As Hamlet might say, Hollywood is “hoist with its own petard.”

You lovers of world history know that “petard” is French for a hat-shaped bomb used to blow open doors during sieges of castles in the 1500s, and the phrase “hoist with his own petard” was coined by Shakespeare in Hamlet, meaning, with apologies to The Bard, a person who has been blown up by his own bomb.

 What I am getting to is the decision by Sony Pictures to pull the movie The Interview from theaters for its Christmas release, and shelf the “comedy” altogether – not even releasing it on Netflix. This happened after “hackers” – the North Koreans – broke into Sony’s computers and stole tons of information, some of it embarrassing to Sony executives. The hackers then threatened to kill moviegoers who went to see the film on Christmas. You see the movie is about two bumblers who are asked by the CIA – who else? – to assassinate the Communist North’s pudgy Dictator Kim Jung-un, whose head full of Marx and Mao apparently explodes at film’s end. You know how Hollywood loves an uplifting finale.

Notwithstanding the imbecility of using the assassination of a country’s sitting leader as fodder for a movie comedy nor the criminality of hacking corporate computer systems, I’m not going to go into the subject of North Korea spitting and stomping on our First Amendment, which it has done without firing a nuke.

I am saying, however, that Hollywood has finally gotten its comeuppance.

For years Hollywood has cranked out tasteless “comedies” like Jackass and Jackass 2 and Bad Teacher, Bad Santa and Bad Grandpa (I better be careful their next movie might be Bad Blogger). Such films portray Americans as a nation of oddballs, idiots and airheads; idlers, slobs and nincompoops; and criminals, deviants and ruthless nutcases.

Tell me now, are you any of those?

To put it mildly, for the want of a buck Hollywood has brought the worst of You Tube into theaters. Oh, and television has jumped on the buffoonery farm wagon, squirting out low-budget reality shows like cows do pies, trying to make stars out of weirdoes, creeps, felons, drug-pushers and scripted screaming “bitches.”

How has all this “comedy” and “reality” helped form world opinion of America?

Hollywood answers that question too by pumping out films that portray us as universally despised by the “civilized world,” civilized meaning any country that isn’t America.

In the past the real teachers and grandpas lampooned by Hollywood had no influence over how they were cast. But now enter one of the world’s most oppressive regimes and its dictator (Dennis Rodman’s pal) and his army of cyber terrorists. Yes, Kim Jung-un apparently has something to say about Hollywood’s treatment of him. And guess what?

Hollywood just got jack-assed. Or as Hamlet would say, “hoist on his own petard.”

And this bomb in the cyber war has been heard all around the world.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Time to Thank and Excuse the Grand Jury?


This is the first time I have ever agreed with race-baiter Al Sharpton. He says we should eliminate the grand jury system in America.

I agree with him up to a point, but not for the reasons he states.

Predicable Al wants to do away with grand juries because he believes they always let white cops off for killing black people. Without a nuanced thought in his head, he lumps together and cites the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City, deaths similar in one respect: a black suspect was killed by a white cop.

Abolishing the grand jury would be a radical leap, given its rich history in English and American law.

The grand jury bears the name because it generally has more members than a 12-person trial jury, sometimes up to 23 lay members. Such juries of folks were first used in the 12th century in Henry II’s England, wherein a body of men was empaneled from time to time to report on criminal activity in the shire. Thereafter ingrained in common law the grand jury system followed colonists to America, where, ever since, its legal sanctity and secrecy have been stingily protected by the United States Supreme Court. (Mr. Sharpton probably thinks President Obama can eliminate grand juries with a stroke of his pen.)

I said I agreed with Al Sharpton up to a point. That’s because grand juries shouldn’t be abolished. They should be curtailed. When it comes to criminal matters they should only investigate government corruption. The Founding Fathers would smile on that. Why should all other criminal matters be stripped from the grand jury?

Simply put, modern grand juries let prosecutors skate in politically charged cases, such as when white cops kill unarmed black suspects. That’s what happened in Ferguson and in New York, in the Brown and Garner cases. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and New York District Attorney Daniel Donovan shirked their public responsibility by asking grand juries to decide these cases. They knew the cases were politically charged, with perceived racial overtones. In each case the prosecutor could have taken action on his own, exercised his prosecutorial discretion and filed criminal charges against the white policeman or, alternatively, explained publicly why he decided not to.

But, neither McCulloch nor Donovan did either. Instead, each ran to a grand jury for political cover.

The modern grand jury system has become an expedient way for elected district attorneys to pass the political heat of controversial cases to plain folks who sit on grand juries. Once the jury makes its decision, especially if they exonerate a white cop, the prosecutor holds up his clean palms in “hands up, don’t shoot” fashion and proclaims, “It’s the grand jury’s decision, not mine.” You see, such disclaimers make running for re-election smoother, and after all, it’s all about being re-elected, isn’t it? Running for grand jury cover simply uncovered McCulloch’s and Donovan’s cowardice.

Listen, we pay top prosecutors hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to do one of two things: either charge people with crimes or tell us why not. Prosecuting Attorney McCulloch and District Attorney Donovan should have had the cojones to say why there was insufficient cause (or evidence) to charge the white officers with crimes. Obviously they suspected it was insufficient – that’s why they took cover in the grand jury in the first place, to deflect political repercussions.

Here is what bugs me the most about these prosecutorial wimps. By running to the grand jury in controversial cases district attorneys foist the political heat (and danger) off on regular men and women of all races, untrained in law, who are paid a per-diem pittance for their jury service and, who, once the jury’s decision is made public, live in fear that some violent dirt bag who loots and torches businesses and calls it First Amendment protest might learn their identity and seek them out for revenge. These pansy prosecutors should be ashamed.

There have been calls for “special prosecutors” to handle police-involved deaths, especially when white cops kill blacks. Mr. Sharpton wants the feds to take all such cases. The rap here is that regular, elected district attorneys are too cozy with cops to indict them. That’s hogwash. Voters will quickly send such puppet prosecutors to the unemployment line.

The real answer is to limit grand juries to investigations of criminal wrongdoing by bureaucrats, as well as their longstanding civil watchdog functions over government. Curtailing them will end prosecutor misuse of grand juries in most police department cases. That way district attorneys will be forced to earn their pay checks by exercising prosecutorial discretion even in criminal cases they find “too hot to handle.”
 
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