SciFi Weekend: 12 Monkeys; Person of Interest; Arrow; The Atom; Gotham; X-Files Reboot; Hannibal; Man In The High Castle; Doctor Who; Torchwood; Selma and LBJ

12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys got off to a great start this week. The second episode is also available for streaming here if you have a cable subscription but I am writing this after only having watched the pilot episode which aired Friday. It was a strange concept which actually works. It began with an idea for a time travel show named Splinters (also the name of the pilot) which was altered to be a re-imagining of the movie 12 Monkeys. It somehow did work, altering many aspects of the movie in ways which will probably work better than the movie did as a weekly series. Considering both the many changes to the movie, and the pilot staring out at the beginning of the story, there is no need to have watched the movie to enjoy the show.

The basic premise is the same as the movie in that a plague has wiped out most of the human race, but in the television movie Cole is trying to actually stop this from happening, and the Army of the 12 Monkeys will be an important aspect rather than a red herring. This means that the entire theory of time travel is different. In the movie, the plague happened, time cannot be altered, and the goal is to go back in time to find information to help develop a cure in the future.

In the television series time can be changed. Not only does Cole believe he can stop the plague, he believes that when he changes time he will cease to exist. This is of no concern to him as he doesn’t see anything about his future worth preserving, with the human race appearing doomed to extinction. There are some aspects of time travel reminiscent of how it worked in Looper, except instead of a character losing body parts, scratching the past version of a watch causes the same scratch to appear on the future version. This gets a bit more confusing when we find that a character saw Cole in his past but Cole has not yet made the trip to 1987 referenced. This might contradict what was shown with the watch, but trying too hard to think about this only leads to”making diagrams with straws.” (That’s another reference to Looper, which seems appropriate considering that Bruce Willis played a time traveler in both Looper and the movie version of 12 Monkeys.)

It is a safe prediction that Cole cannot be successful in changing history, at least until the series finale, so the show must stand on how compelling the ride is. As in the movie, his relationship Dr. Railly is an important aspect. In the television show, she has a different first name and is a virologist instead of a psychiatrist. The show started out with Cole kidnapping Dr. Railly, but their relationship did improve from there. At times their relationship had a feel reminiscent of Ichabod and Abbie on Sleepy Hollow. Both Cole and Ichabod are characters out of their time and on mission which is of vital importance to humanity. Despite the importance of their missions, the little things provide the fun, such as Cole discovering cheese burgers with a reaction similar to Ichabod when discovering the wonders of modern times. Cole also noted that Dr. Railly looks like the women he has only seen in magazines, making her wonder which magazines he was referring to.

12 Monkeys2

The Hollywood Reporter discussed the changes from the movie and plans for the show with showrunner Natalie Chaidez.

In the 1995 film, the Army of the 12 Monkeys served as a red herring. Originally believed to have spread the virus that kills billions of people, the 12 Monkeys in truth were nothing more than an activist group, led by Leland’s son, Jeffrey, who freed zoo animals and locked Leland away in a cage for conducting experiments on animals.

With Leland dead, 12 Monkeys showrunner NatalieChaidez shed light on what the audience can expect from the television adaptation of the Army of the 12 Monkeys and the 2043 timeline.

“Who the 12 Monkeys are, what they are trying to accomplish, how they relate to time travel is the big question of the series,” Chaidez told The Hollywood Reporter. “Unraveling that mystery is our series journey. Knowing where Cole fits in their plan is a big part of it.”

The mysteries, however, are not only related to the 2015 arc. While the movie did not spend much time exploring the future dystopia, Chaidez is set to bring 2043 and the dangers that come with it to the forefront.

“In the series, we have the time to explore what was around those dark corners that we couldn’t peer around in the movie,” she said. “We really get to dig into how people survive in the future and how they are living. We have a group of people called Scavengers. They are the people who have survived but not always with the best morality. They’ve done what they’ve had to do.”

Opening up the world and traveling past the walls of the Temporal Facility also will be a big part of the series. “You will see a little bit of that in episode four, ‘Atari.’ It continues to build in the next few episodes, and we refer to it in a big way at the end of the season,” she noted.

No matter how deep the rabbit hole surrounding the mystery of the virus and the 12 Monkeys goes, Chaidez admits Cole’s struggle will not always be against one force.

“Are there other evil forces at play? Are there other collaborators? Certainly, but the 12 Monkeys are definitely the mysterious force that Cole wrestles with and battles against over the course of the series,” she explained.

Person of Interest Control Alt Delete

Control-Alt-Delete concludes the current trilogy on Person of Interest. It was an unusual ending if truly viewed as a trilogy, but putting aside the trivial matter of the structure of the trilogy, it was another excellent episode in a continuing storyline transforming the show from a procedural to a true genre show. Unlike the previous episodes in the trilogy, it concentrated on the character Control, with very little of Finch, and provided a view of Samaritan from the government’s view which we have not seen before.

I suspect that the key role of this episode isn’t really in completing a trilogy but as starting a transformation for Control. We saw more clearly that Samaritan is both dishonest and evil in its operation, such as with the manner in which it eliminated programers it recruited when they were no longer of value by telling government agents that they were terrorists. One of them asked Control to at least entertain the idea she was being lied to. At the moment she did not and shot the programmer, but she then went to investigate the scene of the shoot out in last week’s episode. She did find evidence that he area was freshly painted, suggesting a cover-up.

We have already seen major changes in which side a character is on in the series, and this has set up a natural progression which I believe will turn Control from an opponent to an ally of Team Machine as she realizes the harm which Samaritan poses to the United States. The currently futile search for Shaw also continued after the events of last week, and the possibility of an alliance with Shaw’s old partner, or at least a cessation of hostilities, was also raised.

There was also the return of the child avatar. I think the idea worked the first time, but now that the goal is to confront the president directly I would find it more realistic for Samaritan to utilize a different manner of communication.

Ray Palmer Felicity

Marc Guggenheim spoke with Nerdist about plans for an Atom spin-off series:

NERDIST: You just mentioned you’ve given some consideration to an Atom spin-off series…

MARC GUGGENHEIM: The thing that we’ve been talking about is just how do we further expand the universe; and we love Brandon and we love having him on Arrow.

N: He brings a new dynamic to the show in his scenes with Emily Bett Rickards’ Felcity, a kind of screwball comedy vibe.

MG: He does. When we met with Brandon, the whole point of Ray Palmer for us — not the whole point but a big piece of Ray Palmer — was… Felicity’s voice is of a different show and we always say that Emily’s playing tennis against herself. [Laughs.] So we wanted to create a character that could vibrate at her frequency. And Ray really brings that and brings that energy and he’s so much fun to write. He’s a joy to write. Brandon’s so terrific and embodies the role so well that when we talk about how to further expand things, he’s a natural person to talk about. It’s like Brandon said on the panel, originally when we met with him we just wanted to bring a great character onto the show and we wanted a great actor to play him. That’s really how it always starts. With the exception of Grant Gustin on Arrow last year, there’s never been a [decision] to bring in a character with the intention to spin them off. It’s always, “What services the show the best?”

X Files

Fox has renewed Gotham for a second season in a move which some will be happy about and others will question. They are also considering even more controversial moves, including a remake bring back 24 without Jack Bauer and  rebooting The X-Files.

Saturday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, Fox confirmed that the network hopes to reboot The X-Files the way it did with 24. The followup would star the original duo David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. So far they’ve just been talking logistics, and trying to match up everyone’s schedules. The actors both have commitments to other shows, with Anderson in a recurring role on NBC’s Hannibal (and likely another season of The Fall) and Duchovny also starring in the peacock network’s show Aquarius.According to Deadline, Carter hinted that the show might return in the summer.

I think that the more important question that must be answered before getting the cast together is whether there is a coherent story they can tell after the mess the series wound up in.

The third season of Hannibal will be adding Will’s wife Molly as a character. She will not appear until the eighth episode, which will have a time jump to allow for the changes in Will’s personal life.

The Seattle Times has a review of Amazon’s television version of Philip K. Dick’s novel, Man In The High Castle. It sounds like the television series should go well beyond the novel in developing this alternate history in which Germany and Japan won World War II. If interested in reading such an alternate history, another novel I’d recommend is Fatherland by Robert Harris. In his novel, instead of being defeated and occupied by Germany and Japan as in Dick’s alternate history, the United States and Germany both developed nuclear weapons and were in a cold war while Germany controlled most of Europe. HBO has also made a movie version.

There was talk earlier in the week that Netflix would be losing BBC shows including Doctor Who. A deal has been reached to renew rights for multiple shows including Doctor Who and Torchwood, however Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, MI-5 and Red Dwarf will no longer be available on Netflix as of February 1.

In related news regarding a couple of these shows, filming has started on season nine of Doctor Who. John Borrowman is working on Torchwood radio plays. He says that Russell T Davies and executive producer Julie Gardner are involved: “It’s the team back together.” Hopefully this is a step towards reviving the television series, without making the same mistakes as in the final season.

Maureen Doud‘s column this weekend is about seeing Selma. She did praise the movie but did object to both the Oscar snubs and to its historical inaccuracies about Lyndon Johnson:

In an interview with Gwen Ifill on P.B.S., DuVernay dismissed the criticism by Joseph Califano Jr. and other L.B.J. loyalists, who said that the president did not resist the Selma march or let J. Edgar Hoover send a sex tape of her husband to Mrs. King. (Bobby Kennedy, as J.F.K’s attorney general, is the one who allowed Hoover to tap Dr. King.)

“This is art; this is a movie; this is a film,” DuVernay said. “I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.”

The “Hey, it’s just a movie” excuse doesn’t wash. Filmmakers love to talk about their artistic license to distort the truth, even as they bank on the authenticity of their films to boost them at awards season.

John Lewis, the Georgia congressman who was badly beaten in Selma, has said that bridge led to the Obama White House. And, on Friday night, the president offset the Oscar dis by screening “Selma” at the White House. Guests included DuVernay, Lewis and Oprah Winfrey, who acts in the film and was one of its producers.

There was no need for DuVernay to diminish L.B.J., given that the Civil Rights Movement would not have advanced without him. Vietnam is enough of a pox on his legacy.

As I have written about “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Argo,” and as The New York Review of Books makes clear about “The Imitation Game,” the truth is dramatic and fascinating enough. Why twist it? On matters of race — America’s original sin — there is an even higher responsibility to be accurate.

DuVernay had plenty of vile white villains — including one who kicks a priest to death in the street — and they were no doubt shocking to the D.C. school kids. There was no need to create a faux one.

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NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Complaint Against Prosecutors For Misconduct In Darren Wilson Case

Following the ACLU taking the case of a member of the Ferguson grand jury who is suing to be able to speak publically about how prosecutor Robert McCulloch misrepresented the proceedings, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund  has written a letter to Missouri Judge Maura McShane asking her to investigate Ferguson prosecutor Bob McCulloch and two assistant prosecutors for misconduct. St. Louis Public Radio reports:

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch and two of his assistants are facing a misconduct complaint for the way they handled the grand jury that investigated former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The complaint was filed Monday with the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel which handles attorney discipline in the state. It accuses McCulloch and assistants Kathi Alizadeh and Sheila Whirley of “gross failure to vigorously represent their client – the citizens of St. Louis, Missouri, in their capacity as prosecutors.” Alizadeh and Whirley were in charge of presenting the Wilson case to the grand jury.

“We would like to send the message that prosecuting attorneys can no longer abuse their power and expect it to be swept under the rug,” said Christi Griffin, a former attorney who is the founder and president of the Ethics Project, and one of seven citizens to sign the complaint.

Specifically, McCulloch, Alizadeh and Whirley are accused of violating the following rules of conduct:

  • Rule 4-3.3: Candor toward the tribunal. The complaint says, among other things, that  Alizadeh and Whirley cited an outdated, unconstitutional use-of-force statute, and failed to properly correct their mistake. The two are also accused of knowingly allowing witnesses to lie to the grand jury.
  • Rule 4-1.1: Competence. Historically, the plaintiff — or the person bringing the case — is supposed to receive the benefit of the doubt. In the Wilson case, the state is the plaintiff. The complaint alleges that Alizadeh and Whirley, presumably with McCulloch’s knowledge, did not do all they could to present the strongest case for the state.
  • Rule 4-1.6: Confidentiality of information. The complaint says McCulloch needed permission to release the transcripts of grand jury testimony and witness statements and that he dumped all the evidence in an effort to taint a second grand jury.
  • Rule 4-1.8: Conflict of interest: prohibited transactions. The complaint alleges that Alizadeh and Whirley acted more like Darren Wilson’s defense attorneys. They cite the continual references to the marijuana in Michael Brown’s system, and the fact that he was suspected of robbing a convenience store moments before the shooting.
  • Rule 4-3.8: Special responsibilities of a prosecutor. The complaint alleges that McCulloch made several public statements that went beyond what’s permitted to “inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s actions.”
  • Rule 4-3.4: Fairness to opposing party and counsel. McCulloch made several public statements that seemed to bolster Wilson’s statements, while commenting negatively about Michael Brown.
  • Rule 4-3.5: Impartiality and decorum of the tribunal. Alizadeh is accused of making comments about protesters, the NAACP and Ferguson unrest that could prejudice the grand jurors.
  • Rule 4.4-1: Truthfulness in statements to others. This complaint also deals with the outdated use-of-force statute originally presented to the grand jury. It specifically references the day Alizadeh handed the copy of the unconstitutional statute to the grand jury, and also comments she made about messing up the exhibit numbers.
  • Rule 4-5.2: Responsibilities of a subordinate lawyer. Alizadeh and Whirley were required to abide by the rules of professional conduct regardless of what McCulloch told them to do.

Griffin said the availability of the transcripts and evidence, even though it was released in violation of the codes of conduct, brought to light problems with the entire judicial system.

“It’s made possible by the prosecutors, because as long as the police can expect not to be prosecuted for their misconduct, they will continue to over-police, they will continue to abuse citizens, they will continue to use excessive force,” she said.

There is speculation that this could result in the reopening of the case with a special prosecutor forming a new grand jury to reconsider indicting Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown when considerable evidence shows he was attempting to surrender.

I am not very optimistic that there will be action on this letter. St. Louis Public Radio also reports that an attorney serving as a legal consultant “said he was unaware of any Missouri prosecutors who were ever publicly disciplined, even for what he said were pretty egregious violations.” On the other hand, the unprecedented level of publicity surrounding this case, and the considerable evidence of misconduct on Wilson’s part, including using witnesses who he knew were lying and giving incorrect instructions to the grand jury, could make it more difficult for Missouri officials to continue to sweep this killing by a police officer under the rug.

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Member of Ferguson Grand Jury Suing To Be Allowed To Speak Out On How McCulloch Mischaracterized The Case

There have been multiple irregularities in the grand jury proceedings regarding Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown when both eye witnesses and forensic evidence suggest he was attempting to surrender. The case was handled improperly in order to protect Wilson from facing a fair trial, with the prosecutor essentially acting as the defense for Darren Wilson. There were also irregularities in how the evidence was handled and in the directions given to members of the grand jury. Prosecutor Robert McCulloch  has admitted to using testimony from people he knew were lying in defense of Wilson.

It is important in a case such as this for there to be a fair and open trial, in which the evidence can be reviewed,  witnesses are cross examined, and there is public record of the proceedings. Following all the irregularities in the Ferguson case, we now have a member of the grand jury who is suing to be allowed to talk about the hearing, stating that McCulloch has misled the public about the case:

The grand juror, referred to only as “Grand Juror Doe” in the lawsuit, takes issue with how McCulloch characterized the case. McCulloch released evidence presented to the grand jury and publicly discussed the case after the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, then a Ferguson police officer, in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American.

“In [the grand juror]’s view, the current information available about the grand jurors’ views is not entirely accurate — especially the implication that all grand jurors believed that there was no support for any charges,” the lawsuit says. “Moreover, the public characterization of the grand jurors’ view of witnesses and evidence does not accord with [Doe]’s own.”

“From [the grand juror]’s perspective, the investigation of Wilson had a stronger focus on the victim than in other cases presented to the grand jury,” the lawsuit states. Doe also believes the legal standards were conveyed in a “muddled” and “untimely” manner to the grand jury.

In the lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri argues that this case is unique and that the usual reasons for requiring the jurors to maintain secrecy should not apply.

In this specific case, “any interests furthered by maintaining grand jury secrecy are outweighed by the interests secured by the First Amendment,” the lawsuit says, adding that allowing the juror to speak would contribute to a discussion on race in America.

As the grand juror points out in the lawsuit, the Wilson case was handled in a very different manner than other grand juries. Instead of recommending a charge, McCulloch’s office presented thousands of pages worth of evidence and testimony before the grand jury. At one point, McCulloch’s spokesman characterized the grand jury as co-investigators.

“From [Doe]’s perspective, although the release of a large number of records provides an appearance of transparency, with heavy redactions and the absence of context, those records do not fully portray the proceedings before the grand jury,” the lawsuit says.

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Fox Twitter Hashtag Backfires

On Tuesday Fox & Friends asked Twitter users to post things they were over with the hashtag #OverIt2014. They started with Fake Journalist Barbie tweeting, “I’m over attacks against Christianity.” This worked out about how you might expect.  Gawker reported some of the snarky responses, and far more are now up:

You get the idea. The responses are continuing to come in at a rapid rate.

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Ferguson Prosecutor Admits To Allowing Testimony From People Who Were Clearly Lying

We have already seen many signs that the grand jury investigation in Ferguson was handled improperly, with the prosecutor essentially acting as the defense for Darren Wilson. There were also irregularities in how the evidence was handled. Wilson was allowed to present his case without undergoing cross examination, despite his testimony being contradicted by physical evidence and some of the witnesses. Now prosecutor Robert McCulloch has admitted in an interview (video above) that he allowed people to testify who were clearly lying. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

Certain witnesses who spoke before the grand jury investigating the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown told obvious lies under oath, St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said Friday.

“Clearly some were not telling the truth,” he said during an interview on KTRS 550. He added that he’s not planning to pursue charges against any lying witnesses.

In his first extensive interview since the grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, McCulloch said he had no regrets about letting grand jury members hear from non-credible witnesses.

“Early on I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything would be presented to the grand jury,” McCulloch said. He added that he would’ve been criticized no matter his decision.

During the interview, McCulloch referenced a woman who claimed to have seen the shooting.

This “lady clearly wasn’t present,” McCulloch said. “She recounted a story right out of the newspaper,” backing up Wilson’s version of events.

The criticism of that witness fits the questions surrounding Sandra McElroy, also known as Witness 40.

McElroy, who’s admitted to using racial slurs and trying to raise money for Wilson, testified that she saw the entire shooting unfold, and that Brown charged the officer shortly before he was killed — a detail that has proven controversial because of conflicting reports.

Investigators picked apart McElroy’s story, saying she could not have left the apartment complex in the way she described.

She also gave conflicting accounts of why she was at the scene of the shooting that day and admitted that she has short-term memory problems from a head-on collision that left her with a traumatic brain injury.

Previously it was not believed that McCulloch would face any legal consequences for his actions to keep Wilson from being tried. Maybe this will change in light of his admission that he used testimony from people who were lying. Buzzfeed pointed out that McCulloch’s use of a witness who “clearly wasn’t present” might also be a violation of both professional ethics and the law:

McCulloch’s acknowledgment that he knew some of the witness accounts were untrue raises ethical questions about his office’s presentation to the grand jury.

According to Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, RULE 4-3.3, “A lawyer shall not knowingly offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.”

The law also says that a lawyer “may refuse to offer evidence, other than the testimony of a defendant in a criminal matter, that the lawyer reasonably believes is false.”

“A lawyer should not present testimony that he believes to be false,” Steven Lubet, a law professor at Northwestern University, told BuzzFeed News. “That is especially true in a proceeding that lacks all of the usual safeguards, such as opposing counsel and a judge.”

I’m sure there will be more legal opinions to come regarding McCulloch’s actions.

Following the release of the grand jury decision in Ferguson there have been multiple media reports of other acts of excessive violence by police officers, such as the killing of Eric Garner. You would think that police officers would be more cautious following these negative media reports, but there was yet another incident. The New York Daily News reports:

Internal Affairs is investigating the circumstances of an arrest, captured on video, that shows a plainclothes cop repeatedly punching a teen suspect in the body as three uniformed cops were trying to subdue and handcuff him, police said.

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Police Shoot Man In Hollywood

Since the decision not to indict in Ferguson was released it seems like hardly a day goes by in which police shootings are not in the news. I noted this trend yesterday, and today there is a new story–a shooting of a man by police in Hollywood who had a knife in his pocket.

As Think Progress notes, we do not yet know the full details of this situation, but it does appear to be part of a disturbing trend of police escalation of incidents both in Los Angeles and in other cities around the country.

While details of Friday’s shooting are still emerging, officers seemed to have engaged in the same rapid escalation that has been criticized in other recent shootings. In St. Louis this past August, officers shot a man holding a knife less than 20 seconds after arriving at the convenience store where he had allegedly stolen two cans of soda. While police in Los Angeles, St. Louis, and New York City have long been criticized over their deployment of lethal force, Burlington, VT officers had not fired their guns on duty in 16 years when they killed a mentally ill man last November because he was brandishing a shovel.

These clashes occupy a different category of police violence from the killings of unarmed black men that have sparked mass street protest around the country in recent months, such as the barehanded killing of Eric Garner by New York police who applied a prohibited chokehold while the 43-year-old said “I can’t breathe” repeatedly. Protests have also been inflamed by twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, who Cleveland police shot and killed for playing with a toy gun. The officers killed Rice so soon after getting to the scene that the driver of the car wasn’t even out of his cruiser yet. Officer Timothy Loehmann’s record of handling his weapon was so poor that a previous department had forced him to step down.

Los Angeles police are also under scrutiny as the public awaits the release of autopsy results in the LAPD killing of Ezell Ford, an unarmed man who eyewitnesses say was laying on the ground when officers shot him this past summer. Ford was killed two days after officers in Ferguson, MO shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

In each case, trained officers escalated the situation, and killed someone who might have been subdued another way. Police killings are notoriously difficult to track and analyze systematically because hundreds of them never get reported to official crime and violence databases maintained by the federal government.

After all the attention paid to such incidents recently, one might think that the police would be trying to avoid the use of lethal force whenever possible. Instead it looks like the police might have picked up upon another lesson we have learned–it is very unlikely for police involved in shootings to be indicted or otherwise disciplined.

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More Killings By Police Under Investigation

This unfortunate trend continues. Following the grand jury decisions against indictments of police officers who killed Michael Brown in Feguson and Eric Garner in New York, a white police officer has shot an unarmed black man in Arizona. The only thing he was found to be carrying was a bottle of Oxycontin.

A grand jury is now being impaneled in Brooklyn to investigate the killing of Akai Gurley, yet another unarmed black man who was killed by police.

A Justice Department investigation found that the Cleveland police were too quick to use deadly force.

The growing distrust between Cleveland police and the communities they serve can be attributed in part to how quickly officers draw their weapons without trying to use words to calm tense situations, according to the U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the Cleveland Division of Police.

In addition to finding that police often fire their weapons recklessly, the report called out police for using deadly force or less lethal force as their first approach rather than a last resort, even in cases where a suspect is mentally disabled.

“We…discovered that officers do not effectively de-escalate situations, either because they do not know how, or because they do not have an adequate understanding of the importance of de-escalating encounters before resorting to force whenever possible,” the report says.

These practices have become routine in a police culture that encourages using force as punishment – a pattern that’s not only illegal but also puts a strain on police-citizen relations, according to the Justice Department.

The law allows police to use deadly force when their lives or the lives of others around them are in danger, but the Justice officials slammed Cleveland police for shooting at or using other means of physical coercion against people who were not a threat.

Why would we expect Cleveland to be any different from what is sure looking like a disturbing national trend?

David Boez of the Cato Institute hopes that incidents such as the killing of Eric Garner lead to an “American Spring,” including protests against not only police killings but other laws opposed by libertarians: “Let’s hope this coming spring brings a wave of police reform in the United States, and also a reconsideration of the high taxes, prohibitions, and nanny-state regulations that are making so many Americans technically criminals and exacerbating police-citizen tensions.”

While liberals might not share libertarian objection to many of these regulations on the same philosophical grounds as libertarians, the fact remains that there are adverse consequences, such as the killing of Eric Garner, when police devote resources to the enforcement of petty offenses. The New York Times also saw this connection:

The Garner killing must lead to major changes in policy, particularly in the use of “broken windows” policing — a strategy in which Officer Pantaleo specialized, according to a report in September by WNYC, which found that he had made hundreds of arrests since joining the force in 2007, leading to at least 259 criminal cases, all but a fraction of those involving petty offenses. The department must find a better way to keep communities safe than aggressively hounding the sellers of loose cigarettes.

And while defenders of the police like to point to thousands of nonfatal misdemeanor arrests as evidence that officers are acting in a way that is reasonable and safe, there can never be a justification for any lethal assault on an unarmed man, no justification for brutality.

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Killings By Police Officers Are Far Too Common In The United States

The injustice at Ferguson remains fresh in our minds as yet another case of a police officer who killed a black is not going to trial. The grand jury has decided against an indictment in the killing of Eric Garner in an illegal chokehold. The New York Times reports:

A Staten Island grand jury voted on Wednesday not to bring criminal charges in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a white police officer, a decision that triggered outrage by many public officials, spurred protesters to take to the streets and led President Obama to once again vow to help heal the rift that exists between the police and those they serve.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a news conference in Staten Island, said that he had been assured by Attorney General Eric Holder that a federal investigation would continue to probe the death and determine whether Mr. Garner’s civil rights were violated.

The grand jury decision was reached after months of testimony, including that provided by the officer who used the chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo. The grand jury reached its decision less than two weeks after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., declined to bring charges against a white officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.

An autopsy by the city’s medical examiner found that Mr. Garner’s death was a homicide resulting from the chokehold and the compression of his chest by police officers.

Video of the event is above in which Eric Garner can be heard saying more than once that he could not breathe.

There has been more interest in the number of killings by police. The Wall Street Journal looked at the statistics and found that they were being under-counted:

When 24-year-old Albert Jermaine Payton wielded a knife in front of the police in this city’s southeast corner, officers opened fire and killed him.

Yet according to national statistics intended to track police killings, Mr. Payton’s death in August 2012 never happened. It is one of hundreds of homicides by law-enforcement agencies between 2007 and 2012 that aren’t included in records kept by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of the latest data from 105 of the country’s largest police agencies found more than 550 police killings during those years were missing from the national tally or, in a few dozen cases, not attributed to the agency involved. The result: It is nearly impossible to determine how many people are killed by the police each year…

To analyze the accuracy of the FBI data, the Journal requested internal records on killings by officers from the nation’s 110 largest police departments. One-hundred-five of them provided figures.

Those internal figures show at least 1,800 police killings in those 105 departments between 2007 and 2012, about 45% more than the FBI’s tally for justifiable homicides in those departments’ jurisdictions, which was 1,242, according to the Journal’s analysis. Nearly all police killings are deemed by the departments or other authorities to be justifiable.

The full national scope of the underreporting can’t be quantified. In the period analyzed by the Journal, 753 police entities reported about 2,400 killings by police. The large majority of the nation’s roughly 18,000 law-enforcement agencies didn’t report any.

Paul Waldman, discussing Ferguson, recently compared killings by police in the United States to other countries:

American police kill many, many more citizens than officers in similar countries around the world. The number of people killed by police in many countries in a year is in the single digits. For instance, in Britain (where most officers don’t even carry guns), police fatally shot zero people in 2013 and one person in 2012. Germany has one-quarter the population of the United States, and police there killed only six people in all of 2011. Although official figures put the number killed by American police each year around 400, the true number may be closer to 1,000.

The most common explanation is that since we have so many guns in America, police are under greater threat than other police. Which is true, but American police also kill unarmed people all the time — people who have a knife or a stick, or who are just acting erratically. There are mentally disturbed people in other countries, too, so why is it that police in Germany or France or Britain or Japan manage to deal with these threats without killing the suspect?

This is where we get to the particular American police ideology, which says that any threat to an officer’s safety, even an unlikely one, can and often should be met with deadly force. We see it again and again: Someone is brandishing a knife; the cops arrive; he takes a step toward them, and they fire. Since Brown’s death, at least 14 teenagers have been shot and killed by police; the weapons they were wielding included knives, cars and a power drill, all of which can be obtained by European citizens, at least as far as I know.

In the case of Michael Brown the killing was justified by claims that Brown had grabbed Darren Wilson’s gun (with much of the physical evidence and eye witness testimony putting this claim in question). We can see what happened in the killing of Eric Garner in the video above and there is no sign whatsoever that the police had reason to feel threatened.

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St. Louis Police Oppose Non Violent Protest By Football Players

The controversy over the decision not to indict Darren Wilson extended to football this weekend when five of the St. Louis Rams plays entered the stadium with their hands raised. This was in reference to the eye witnesses who testified before the grand jury that Michael Brown had his hands raised, attempting to surrender, when he was shot to death. These players were engaging in their right to freedom of expression in a peaceful manner.

While I can understand that the police would not be happy to see this, I am disturbed by their reaction. ESPN reports:

The St. Louis Police Officers Association called for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a “very public apology,” its statement read in part.

“I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights,” SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda said in the statement. “Well, I’ve got news for people who think that way: Cops have First Amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

It is understandable for anyone to be upset violent protests but this was a totally peaceful expression of their views. The SLPOA has the idea of the First Amendment totally backwards if they think that the First Amendment was designed for the police to try to shut down protests. I haven’t heard such a confused interpretation of the First Amendment since Sarah Palin expressed the belief it was to protect her from questioning by the media.

While I don’t condone those who are violent, I am also disturbed by the implicit idea of separating the good (you can almost hear white) people of St. Louis and other NFL towns from those (black) people who are protesting, not all of whom are protesting violently. Those football players certainly were engaged in non-violent protest.

The SLPOA took  advantage of unfair nature of the grand jury proceedings to falsely claim that this exonerated Wilson:

“SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda said, “now that the evidence is in and Officer Wilson’s account has been verified by physical and ballistic evidence as well as eye-witness testimony, which led the grand jury to conclude that no probable cause existed that Wilson engaged in any wrongdoing, it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again.”

The argument that there was probable cause to indict Wilson, despite the ruling of the grand jury, was never disproven. Both physical evidence and eye witnesses contradict Wilson’s statement. As I discussed here and here, the grand jury proceedings were highly irregular, with the prosecutor essentially acting as the defense, leading the grand jury to come to a decision not to indict. There were also irregularities in the collection of evidence after the shooting.

It is shocking that it has suddenly become controversial in this country to insist that a police officer who shot an unarmed person, who some eye witnesses say was trying to surrender, should have to face cross examination when giving his testimony. There is an incestuous relationship between the police and prosecutor’s office with the prosecutor seeing the police on his side, desiring to protect them. Grand juries are generally used to present the case for indictment, not to present the defense case. Why is it that conservatives who generally distrust the government are suddenly showing complete trust when an unarmed black kid is killed, despite clear abuses of the system by the prosecutor? There is certainly room for disagreement about Wilson’s guilt based upon the evidence presented, both supporting and contradicting Wilson,  but this should be dealt with under normal trial rules, with an adversarial proceeding including  cross examination of the witnesses, not a sham proceeding rigged to exonerate Wilson.

It is only understandable that people will be driven to protest considering the irregularities in this case. This includes football players, who also have the right to freedom of expression. Fortunately the NFL understood this and Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s VP of communications, responded to the SLPOA with this statement, declining to initiate disciplinary action against the players:  “We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.”

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SciFi Weekend: Star Wars; Independence Day 2; Jurassic World; The Flash; Arrow; Supergirl; Gotham; Agent Carter; Constantine; Doctor Who; Selfie; Frozen

There has been a lot of news on sequels to classic science fiction movies. The teaser for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (video above) has received considerable attention, and has led to more speculation as to the movie and the future of the Star Wars universe. There might not be that much information, but several people have broken it down scene by scene to see what can be learned. There is discussion of the trailer here, here, here, here, and here.

Other science fiction classics are also being remade, including Jurassic Park which is discussed below. Fox is planning to release Independence Day 2 on July 4, 2016. Of course for those who don’t want to wait a year or longer, many science fiction movies came out this year. What Culture has picked their list of ten best sci-fi movies of 2014. Some like Interstellar are original movies while others like the two Marvel movies (X-Men and Captain America), Godzilla, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are also sequels or remakes of earlier movies.

The trailer for Jurassic World is above. Film discussed the movie (and leaks of the plot) with director Colin Trevorrow. As is the case with many blockbuster science fiction films, liberties are taken with the science. Trevorrow described the premise:

Yes. Jurassic World takes place in a fully functional park on Isla Nublar. It sees more than 20,000 visitors every day. You arrive by ferry from Costa Rica. It has elements of a biological preserve, a safari, a zoo, and a theme park. There is a luxury resort with hotels, restaurants, nightlife and a golf course. And there are dinosaurs. Real ones. You can get closer to them than you ever imagined possible. It’s the realization of John Hammond’s dream, and I think you’ll want to go there…

This film picks up twenty-two years after Jurassic Park. When Derek [Connolly] and I sat down to find the movie, we looked at the past two decades and talked about what we’ve seen. Two things came to the surface.

One was that money has been the gasoline in the engine of our biggest mistakes. If there are billions to be made, no one can resist them, even if they know things could end horribly.

The other was that our relationship with technology has become so woven into our daily lives, we’ve become numb to the scientific miracles around us. We take so much for granted.

Those two ideas felt like they could work together. What if, despite previous disasters, they built a new biological preserve where you could see dinosaurs walk the earth…and what if people were already kind of over it? We imagined a teenager texting his girlfriend with his back to a T-Rex behind protective glass. For us, that image captured the way much of the audience feels about the movies themselves. “We’ve seen CG dinosaurs. What else you got?” Next year, you’ll see our answer.

Flash Arrow Crossover

The crossover episodes of The Flash and Arrow are on this week but these might not be the only crossovers coming up. CBS owns CW and there are hints that their upcoming Supergirl television show will be in the same universe as The Flash and Arrow, allowing for crossover episodes between these DC characters. However, while you might think that having Supergirl in the television universe would lead to at least mention of Superman, as of now this will not be allowed. Neither Metropolis or Gotham City will be mentioned either. From IGN:

Unfortunately for those hoping to see the Dark Knight show up on the shows, Arrow and Flash executive producer Andrew Kreisberg stressed that anything you see referencing Batman on the show is “a tease.”

Explained Kreisberg, “Obviously, they have the Batman movies and there’s [the series] Gotham. DC are amazing partners and Geoff Johns, who’s the chief creative officer [of DC] and one of the developers of Flash and done episodes of Arrow, he’s been with us from the very beginning on both shows. There are things we can do and things we can’t.”

Kreisberg noted, “I’m a huge fan of Nightwing,” and how exciting it was for him on Arrow “Getting to name check Blüdhaven and go there.” However, he said there are still restrictions in place even when it came to mentioning locations, adding, “There’s the cities that we can use and then there’s everything else. I don’t think you’re going to be hearing ‘Gotham’ or ‘Metropolis’ [on Arrow or The Flash] anytime soon.”

We do know that among the many DC-based TV series in development is Titans at TNT, which would feature Dick Grayson in his Nightwing persona. So could that show directly mention Gotham City and Bruce Wayne/Batman – or even go to Gotham and have an appearance by Bruce? Or is the Gotham TV show seen as the only place where a version of Bruce Wayne will be seen on TV right now? These questions and more — including how directly Superman can be mentioned on CBS’ upcoming Suprgirl TV show — are all ones we’ll slowly find out the answers too as DC expands into more TV shows and films.

There has been one tease and one indirect connection between The Flash and Gotham. I did notice a reference to Wayne Tech in a newspaper headline on The Flash. Morena Baccarin did the computer AI voice at STAR Labs on The Flash and will also be playing Dr. Leslie Thompkins on Gotham. Of course this also provides a connection to the multiple other genre shows she has appeared in.

Den of Geek has teasers, interviews, and other information on the upcoming Flash/Arrow crossover episode. Arrow also teased an ATOM suit for Ray Palmer in a recent episode, providing the possibility of yet another superhero becoming involved. There are also questions as to where Caitlin Snow’s character is going on The Flash. In the comics she is a villain named Killer Frost and Danielle Panabaker, the actress who plays here, states her evolution might take place sooner rather than later. Then there is the bigger mystery of what Harrison Wells is up to and whether he is the one who killed Barry’s mother. Theories range from Wells being Barry Allen’s future self to be being the Reverse Flash. With time travel clearly important to the Harrison Wells storyline, it is notable that a recent episode showed that time can be changed.

Gotham finally had a bigger role for young Bruce Wayne which involved food fights and even a kiss with Selena Kyle. Plus Alfred is practically a superhero on final fall episode.

I am looking forward to Agent Carter but what is the deal with the network promotion of the show with, “Sometimes the best man for a job is a woman.” This is 2014 and just because the show takes place in the 1940’s is not justification for using 1940’s ideas on women to promote the show.

Constantine has not been as successful for NBC as The Flash and Arrow have been for CW and NBC has decided not to go beyond the original thirteen episodes for this season. The producers are still hoping to be renewed, even if limited to thirteen episode seasons (which could be a plus quality-wise).

Doctor-Who-Christmas-Special. 2014

The synopsis for the Doctor Who Christmas special has been released: “The Doctor and Clara face their Last Christmas. Trapped on an Arctic base, under attack from terrifying creatures, who are you going to call? Santa Claus!” There is even more drama beyond the terrifying creatures.

Steven Moffat has never liked spoilers and in the past has said he would like to be able to keep it a secret until an episode in which the Doctor regenerated airs, but this is not possible. At least he is getting the opportunity to surprise fans with the fate of Clara Oswald. The Mirror, which initially claimed prior to the start of the past season that Jenna Coleman was leaving Doctor Who in the Christmas special now states that she had decided to remain, leading to a rewrite. When other sources such as Radio Times tried to get an answer, the BBC just told them they would have to wait for the Christmas episode.

Hulu has picked up the remaining six episodes of Selfie remaining after it was canceled by ABC.

Idina Menzel was interviewed by The Telegraph and it sounds like a sequel to Frozen is in the works.

Totally off topic, but I can’t resist noting that Rudy Giuliani’s comments on race following the events in Ferguson sound the best in the original German.

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