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Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon the Galvanizer



Now that a month has passed, people of a certain political/mental persuasion (the Fox News Community) are offering conjecture as to what made Trayvon Martin deserve what he got. It's like they somehow feel as they have been put on the defensive. But no one put them there. No one made this a political issue until they hunkered down on the wrong side of history once more. 


That's the knee-jerk crew for you; they voluntarily clamor to take the pro side in a debate on racism. "Trayvon was asking for it because he was wearing a hoody in the rain." "Unarmed Trayvon did not have the same right to defend himself as his murderer." "If Trayvon had run away, he would still be alive today." I say without any hyperbole, this is psychotic thinking.


Speaking of which, I'm sure there is one psychopath who wishes he hadn't squandered what good will people had left for him by calling Sandra Fluke a slut. Imagine the crap Limbaugh would love to spew on Trayvon Martin. As a matter of fact, given the choice I bet Limbaugh would rather have the opportunity to say what he wanted about Trayvon Martin and lose his advertisers rather than have lost them over calling Fluke a slut. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20. 


I relish the insane "Kill Trayvon" talk from the Right for one reason; it serves to further isolate a group of dangerous antisocials who are under the delusion that most people agree with them. What abets their position is not that so many people agree with them, but that not enough people who disagree express enough disgust. Extreme cases such as this one centered around Trayvon Martin does just that. Most people know that Trayvon Martin's death is 100% the fault of George Zimmerman and 0% the fault of Trayvon Martin to the regret of The Fox Community. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Trayvon Martin's Murderer is Still Free

After freely confessing to police that he indeed gunned down Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman was free to take his gun and go home. So for weeks, Martin's parents have been trying to get Zimmerman arrested for the murder. What has been confounding to sensible Americans is how the process of  justice in this day and age can be so seemingly a combination of absurd and inert. 

As some are realizing with the trickle of details from the  case, "black" and "guilt" are synonyms for many people including cops, and even some black cops. It is rooted in what I have historically referred to as the most nefarious public relations campaign in history. The permanent existence of black people in America was through slavery. In order for slavery to exist as an accepted institution among Europeans who considered themselves enlightened, those Europeans would have to justify otherwise innocent blacks as deserving of being held captive for life. The justification they used was that blacks were by nature, more mentally deficient, more amoral, more incompetent, more lazy, more threatening, more suspicious and simply more inferior than Americans of European descent. Thus, the kidnap and bondage of Africans was just fine. 

This was the genesis of the absurd and inert process of justice that has followed Trayvon Martin's murder, even in the age of a President Obama. Old traditions die hard. In 2012 a black kid is murdered by someone who seems to be a racially obsessed, unstable paranoiac with a police record and the cops just roll their eyes and let the guy go. The cops bought the paranoiac's imagined accusations of the unarmed black kid being dangerous. Right there they closed the case. End of investigation because to them, that unarmed kid with a bullet hole in him was more mentally deficient, more amoral, more incompetent, more lazy, more threatening, more suspicious and simply more inferior. He was guilty of being black and so he received what millions of Americans subconsciously accept as a fair consequence for being black. To them, justice had been done.

The guilt of a black person in America is so readily acceptable that trials are often a formality. Studies are catching up with the truth revealing, for example that the number of white drug offenders far outnumbers black drug offenders, but the number of black people incarcerated for drug offenses far outnumbers whites incarcerated for the same. The Innocence Project, dedicated to proving the innocence of the those wrongly convicted has successfully had 298 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA since 1989. Of those, 180 were of wrongly convicted blacks.

If Trayvon Martin had not been shot, there would have been another course of events on the night of February 26. The police would have arrived and they would have stopped Martin, questioned him, and possibly detained him. Martin would have come away alive, but  undoubtedly humiliated by a police department with a history nonresponse in the case of assaults on its black residents. This story would never have made it to TV news or Facebook. Yet the routine apprehension of young black boys it is still a real possibility for the only reason that they are black. And still certain people, the types of who would never read this piece would want to doubt the uneven meting of American justice. It's no joy to have the Trayvon Martin case to prove them wrong.




Thursday, March 8, 2012

End of the Progressive Era in the Queen City

In 1977, my family moved to Shelburne, Vermont. Shelburne was a couple towns south of Burlington, the states largest city which today only boasts a population of about 40,000 people. It was 12 years before at-large House member Jim Jeffords would be elected to the Senate and 24 years before he quit the Republican party. Pat Leahy had only been in the Senate for two years. It was a year before Howard Dean would become a resident of the state. The city of Burlington was run by a Democratic machine led by Mayor Gordon Paquette. 


For years before the Dornells arrived in Vermont, there was a third party fixture in statewide politics who had run for several offices in Vermont as the Liberty Union party candidate. He was Brooklyn transplant Bernie Sanders. Sanders gave politics a rest in the late 70s after a series of what must have been symbolic runs (his support never left the single digits). Then in 1981 Sanders re-emerged as a candidate in the race for Burlington mayor. 


Sanders brought attention on himself as an avowed Socialist. While some may have dismissed him as some hippy dip traitor, enough Burlington voters got his message of the importance of an open and accountable government that worked for the citizens. Sanders' 10 vote victory ushered in the dominance of the Progressive Party in "the Peoples' Republic of Burlington." With the exception of the Mayorship of Peter Brownell from 1993-1995, Burlington has had a progressive mayor since Bernie Sanders until now. On Super Tuesday, Miro Weinberger, a Democrat was voted mayor of Burlington in a race with no Progressive Party candidate.


Weinberger inherits a city that within the past 20 years, has topped numerous lists that denote a high quality of life. It's not that this was all the doing of Sanders and the Progressives, but in its progressive era, Burlington went from an aging college town to a vibrant city of national renown. It was an antithesis of the government-addled business unfriendly stereotype some prejudiced dopes insist on holding of progressive towns - kind of like San Francisco, only nicer, cleaner, and smaller. 


I wish nothing but the best for Miro Weinberger and I have no bizarre fantasies that he, not being a member of the Progressive Party would want to do anything to sell Burlington up the lake. The things that made Burlington so livable, sustainable and all that green jazz is now a part of its DNA to the point where it may not need a Progressive Party mayor to keep it going. Hopefully.  


As for Bernie, the Liberty Union candidate once stuck in single digits has become an elder statesman. The passion with which he argues for social and economic justice as a U.S. senator is more fiery than I remember it from his days as mayor. But the Brooklyn accent is still the same. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mitt's Appeal



When Mitt Romney finally wins the Republican nomination for president, he will have his work cut out for him. Barack Obama who is currently outpacing Romney among various voting segments is at an advantage. What can we expect to hear from the awkwardly-spoken Republican frontrunner in attempts to salvage his standing to women and Latinos during the general election?

To Women
"Ah, I love women. I tell ya, fairer sex, my knee. If someone asks me how I describe women, I wouldn't say "fair." Wrong answer (nervous laughter). I don't know how you do it. Like the song says, 'I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan.' Except for Jewish women. Don't wanna forget them. They have the matzo soup? They can fry that up, right? I tell ya, my wife Ann is a knockout. If I don't say that she'll knock me out (nervous laughter). Now, Barack Obama, he's been terrible for women. I don't have to tell you. He wants to be the Contraceptor-In-Chief. He not only wants to tell you when to take your birth control pill but when you should have sexual relations. That's not what government is for. Our Founding Fathers said if women had the right to vote, then by golly they should have the right to take the pill according to their own cycle. Our Founding Fathers had a deep respect for the beautifulness and loveliness of womanhood and that is the tradition that our country holds dear. Thank you so much."

To Latinos
"Buenos días. I tell ya I feel right at home right now. You may know of my Mexican heritage. My father was born in Mexico. I still have family there. Yo soy un beaner (nervous laughter). We can say that word, right? I've been around all types of Hispanics; legal; illegal. We had some illegals work for us some time back. We had to let them go since I was running for president but they seemed like real nice folks. Don't tell la Migra (nervous laughter). I've known Cuban, Puerto Rican... um what else? I actually met a Chinese guy from Cuba. How about that? If you closed your eyes and listened to him speak, you'd probably never know he was Chinese. Now, Barack Obama, he's been terrible for Latinos. Where is Barack Obama's Latino policy. Commo estoy su policy Latino? I'll tell you, nada. You deserve better, whether you came here on the back of a donkey or crammed in the spare tire well of an 84 Isuzu Trooper, Viva la Raza! You deserve better! Thank you."


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Yes Olympia, It's Okay to Blame the Republicans


When Olympia Snowe recently announced her retirement from the Senate, she cited partisan gridlock as the reason for her departure.  She neutrally accused both sides of the aisle of creating the impasse. It is my observation that most people who consider themselves in the political center like Snowe seem to err on the side of Republicans. When Republicans deserve blame for something, both Republicans and Democrats get called out for it. It is what I hear when Snowe assigns blame for Senate gridlock on “both sides.” Anyone who fairly catalogs the craftiness that has grinded congressional activity to a halt will be tracking elephant prints.  

In her vague indictment, Snowe wrote “In fact, the Senate’s requirement of a supermajority to pass significant legislation encourages its members to work in a bipartisan fashion.” It’s not that this statement is false. It is true, but she omits some facts that get to the root of the problem. No one ever talked about a “supermajority” before Obama’s tenure as president. It became important because a supermajority of 60 senators is what it takes to block a filibuster, the parliamentary tool used by the minority party to block votes on measures they oppose. The filibuster has a sordid history in the Senate, but nothing in its narrative matches the dramatic spike in its use by Senate Republicans since Obama took office.

The so-called liberal media (everything that isn't News Corporation-owned) has addressed how contrary today’s senate Republicans are in invoking the filibuster at a record pace. The complaint of the necessity for a supermajority to get any legislation passed, therefore, is not one that can in any way be pinned on Democrats. Over the past three years, Republicans have used the filibuster to reform government... into the one of the biggest American embarrassments ever.

Snowe currently serves in the Senate under a minority leader who famously announced that his single most important job was to defeat Barack Obama. The party in the minority is not constitutionally obliged to bend to the party in power, but it was never the American tradition for the minority party to shut down America until they could win back power. McConnell is doing his best to furlough America, doing as much as he can to make sure there is no progress on the American agenda in order to keep a political opponent from getting any credit. Real mature.

The coalition of the Olympia Snowes and lazy centrists look at McConnell’s actions and 1) attribute them to “the typical tricks played by BOTH sides” and, 2) blame ALL of Congress for his petty peevishness. The difference is that Snowe knows better. She has been there and she knows that there has been no Democratic coalition in the Senate that has behaved so childishly. I believe that her motivation for trying to spread the blame equally among the two parties might be to make the rest of her tenure go smoothly. If she honestly fingered McConnell and the resentful Obama-hating Republicans as the sole culprits of gridlock, she would assuredly be targeted by her party for retribution.  I have a feeling that once she has retired she will be more free to discuss how Republican lack of respect for American traditions of governance made an unprecedented bad turn in 2009.

I laugh at polls for the fact that they often show how American public opinion conflicts with itself. In spite of a Republican party that has offered little more to the policy discussion than “cut taxes and regulation,” Americans give Republicans an edge in trust in handling a variety of issues YET a majority of Americans don’t believe Republicans in Congress share the same priorities as average Americans. It boggles the mind.

Witness the contradiction in these two different polls. The first, a CBS poll that shows an overwhelming number of Americans supporting the Democratic position of raising taxes on the wealthy. 

Yet this second AP-Gfk poll puts Democrats and Republicans even as far as which party people trust in handling taxes though the majority of Americans, we now know, oppose the Republican tax position.  

The encouragement I feel is therefore tempered when I see this Pew poll below:
There it is. It seems Americans put more trust in the party they trust the least. Republicans are seen as less cooperative, more extreme, less capable, and less honest, yet are forgiven so readily to the point where they currently tie or surpass Democrats in confidence to deliver.

America is like the bar where everyone puts up with the one troubled sumbitch patron that never leaves. It keeps everyone on edge. No one can really have a good time. They laugh at his unfunny jokes to stay on his good side. Whenever he's asked to leave, it's always tentative. Everyone watches when he tears the place up, and when the cops come to haul him away, everyone cusses out the cops. 

I still think Obama has an edge in the election but as the first president to need a supermajority to get anything done, his effectiveness in a second term will be limited. He will continue to be hobbled by the sumbitch no one is willing to ban from the bar. As I've said before, America truly gets the government it deserves. 

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