Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Domestic American Threats: Real & Perceived

Bad haircut showdown: Kim Jong-un & Donald Trump
Truth be told, the possibility of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordering his military to lob a mostly-untested intercontinental ballistic missile (with a nuclear weapon they may or may not actually possess) across the Pacific at America's west coast seems pretty slim.

It's doubtful that using a nuclear weapon against the globe's only remaining nuclear superpower over economic sanctions makes much sense, even to the North Koreans.

Especially considering that their recent grandiose posturing and cryptic-but-vague military threats cost them about a third of what is largely considered an already meager global export business courtesy of the harsh package of new economic sanctions overwhelmingly approved by the U.N. Security Council on Saturday.

To me the greater concern in this overblown geo-political hissy-fit is the erratic, narcissistic POTUS, whose tanking poll numbers, growing unpopularity and chaotic crisis-prone White House make pointless macho sword-rattling seems like a golden opportunity to try and kickstart his anemic approval numbers.

With Kim and Trump arguably amongst the most widely-despised leaders on the planet, the bottom line is that, from a PR standpoint, they kind of need each other right now - and melt-downs is what they both know best.

Remember, these are basically two unpopular, authoritarian man-boys with really bad haircuts who were both raised in the isolated cocoon of privilege under authoritarian, domineering fathers.

Kim Jong-un poses with a mobile missile launcher
Neither Kim nor Trump had a lick of political, military or diplomatic experience before assuming public office.

So all their blustery flag-waving and tough talk about unleashing their toys on each other's countries to vent their contrived rage is like global amateur hour rather than seasoned leadership guided by shrewd diplomacy and statesmanship.

Trump's threat to unleash, "fire and fury", issued from the comfy confines of his exclusive 600-acre country club in Bedminster, NJ on day four of a controversial 17-day vacation, (where he's holed up like some golf-junkie on a binge), seems like it was hastily scrawled on a cocktail napkin by his apocalyptic chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Rather than inspire fear, it only seems to have reinforced Trump's reputation as diplomatic neophyte who is so easily goaded and provoked that it'd be laughable if he wasn't the commander-in-chief of my country.

As Republican Senator John McCain observed, "The great leaders that I have seen, they don't threaten unless they are ready to act, and I'm not sure that President Trump is ready to act,"

But to pivot from our not-ready-for-prime-time-president, there are events happening that actually do represent a threat to American's domestic security.

As you may recall, last month the Bakersfield, California chapter of the NAACP utilized a social media campaign to bring global attention to an egregious case of police brutality committed against an innocent 19-year-old girl named Tatyana Hargrove.

Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green
The video interview, in which Hargrove described having been attacked and beaten by members of the Bakersfield Police Department (who claimed to have mistaken the 5'2" girl for a 5'10" machete-wielding bald man with a goatee), which was posted on the Bakersfield NAACP's Facebook page, has been viewed over 7.6 million times by people around the globe.

As MIC.com reported last Wednesday the Kern County District Attorney, Lisa Green, announced that the bogus charges filed against Hargrove by the same Bakersfield PD officers who beat her would be dropped.

The fact that the charges against her were dropped and that public pressure forced the Bakersfield PD to initiate an internal investigation is a reflection of the power of social media and grassroots activism at a time when the White House and Department of Justice have abdicated their responsibility for oversight of local and municipal law enforcement agencies engaged in clear and consistent patterns of bias based on race and ethnicity.

Over 47,000 people signed the Change.org petition calling for the Kern County DA to drop the charges.

But unfortunately, DA Lisa Green also announced that no charges will be filed against the Bakersfield cops who clearly used unjustified and excessive physical force on Hargrove for no reason.

That's a problem that reflects a broader domestic security concern.

Not just for the citizens of Bakersfield, but for Americans around the country of all races and ethnicities.

Because when local prosecutors refuse to bring charges against police officers who violate codes of conduct and use unjustified force to injure or kill innocent civilians, it sends the signal that such behavior is tolerated and acceptable.

People in Minnesota are still absorbing that lesson.

Jordan Norris being tortured with a taser by Cheatham
County deputies while strapped to a chair in 2016
After years of protests and outrage over the unjustified shootings of innocent African-Americans (cases where no charges were filed or officers found liable for taking the lives of civilians), Minnesotans were shocked when Justine Damond, a 40-year-old blond woman from Australia who'd called the cops to report an assault, was shot and killed at point-blank range when she went out and approached their vehicle to speak with the officers.

Did you read the story about 19-year-old Jordan Elias Norris?

After being arrested for felony possession of marijuana for resale, theft of under $500 and vandalism in November of 2016, three Cheatham County Sheriff's deputies (pictured above) strapped the then-18-year-old to a chair and tortured him with a taser multiple times.

On the surveillance video of the incident (it's not that long but it's hard to watch) the sadistic deputy using the taser can be heard telling Norris, "I'll keep on doing that until I run out of batteries."

And, remarkably, he keeps telling Norris to "stop resisting" as he tasers him even though the 18-year-old is strapped to a chair and also being restrained by two other deputies.

Cheatham County Jail
As the Daily Mail reported, the incident occurred in the just-under two weeks that he was being held in the Cheatham County, Tennessee Jail in 2016 before he was able to pay bond and be released - he had more than 40 taser burns on his body when he got out.

Norris has since filed a federal lawsuit against all three deputies, who've all been suspended pending an investigation.

I'm not citing those two cases to indict the thousands of police officers who risk their lives to protect and serve.

Men and women who do it by following the law, respecting people and conducting themselves as law enforcement professionals.

But the reluctance of the justice system to hold the small fraction of police officers who violate people's rights and injure or kill them literally puts innocent American lives in danger.

And that's far more of a threat to domestic American security than a despot in North Korea.

Overzealous police officers have taken more American lives than Kim Jong-un will - but don't hold your breath waiting for Donald Trump to order the DOJ to crack down on bad cops.

We know how he feels about cops who hurt people, but it probably ignites his increasingly narrow base of supporters more to turn Kim Jong-un into the boogeyman.

Let's just hope the military professionals on both sides are smart enough to keep their respective leaders from actually ordering the use or deployment of weapons of any kind to solve this tiresome international pissing contest.

Between the healthcare debate, the opioid crisis and lagging wages for the middle and working class, Lord knows we have enough fish to fry here in the U.S. without getting bent out of shape about a dictator from a failing state who starves his own people, lives in luxury and has turned obtaining a viable nuclear weapon into some kind of fetish.

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