Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Second Assassination of Trayvon Martin

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The only thing that could be worse than a presumably innocent 17-year-old boy being shot dead is the aftermath where police, gun enthusiasts, conservatives and racists attempt to smear the youth's reputation. The wholesale character assassination taking place is despicable but not unexpected. It's the typical "she was asking for it with that short skirt" defense. When all else fails, blame the victim.

I don't care if Trayvon Martin had a police record or not. Or if he was suspended from school or not. Or whether he smoked weed or not. Or that he was out at 10pm or 3am. He could've just held up a liquor store for all I care. And I don't care whether he threw the first punch at Zimmerman or not. In fact, Trayvon could've been the worst scum of the Earth (which he clearly wasn't) and none of that...let me repeat none of that...justifies Zimmerman stalking, confronting and killing Trayvon. We live in a society governed by the rule of law, not by vigilantes who play judge, jury and executioner.

On neighborhood-watch patrol, it could be argued that Zimmerman did his job by calling 911. It should've ended there. He was told to stop following the kid. He didn't. He then elected to put himself, and Trayvon, in harm's way. Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law should not protect him. To the contrary, it protects people like Trayvon. It is Trayvon, unarmed, who apparently needed to 'stand his ground' after being menaced by an older man with a 9mm semi-automatic weapon strapped to his waist. Even if that meant throwing the first punch. It was his right to use deadly force after believing that Zimmerman was out to kill him.

Trayvon Martin has already been assassinated. The shameful second assassination taking place right now needs to stop.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Trayvon's Death Means for America

There are some events that transcend all others and taken on greater historic value and significance, perhaps even serving to reshape our culture, our laws and how we ultimately think. Trayvon Martin's death is such an event. And in terms of civil rights and race relations, the name Trayvon Martin will be forever etched in America's collective consciousness much in the same way as Rosa Parks, Emmett Till and Martin Luther King Jr.

To be sure, all of the facts of Trayvon's death have yet to be investigated, uncovered and revealed. But on the surface, it would seem highly likely that an innocent 17-year-old black youth was stalked, confronted and provoked into some sort of dispute in which the young man, holding only an iced tea and bag of Skittles, was shot dead. His killer, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, remains free and has yet to be arrested or charged with any crime. Trayvon's killing has spurred impassioned protests nationwide, even resulting in an emotional statement from President Obama.

Zimmerman is hiding behind Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground Law" which permits the use of deadly force in cases of self-defense. But a 911 tape of his call while on neighborhood-watch patrol in the gated community where he followed and ultimately shot Trayvon clearly shows how he was told to stop pursuing the youth. This is the precise point where the law should no longer protect him, because it was the moment Zimmerman lost his right to claim self-defense and instead chose to put the life of another in grave danger. It was Trayvon, an unarmed young man being followed by a menacing older man with a 9mm semi-automatic weapon, who had more of a right to stand his ground.

As his grieving, shell-shocked father Tracy has vowed, Trayvon will not die in vain. His death has galvanized an entire nation in demanding justice. From his death I'm sure will come new legislation ("Trayvon's Law," which will protect innocent people from over-zealous civilian patrols) and amendments to old laws. You can bet that Stand Your Ground will soon exclude the pursuing and confronting of people. Police protocols will be changed. There will be schools named after Trayvon. There'll be documentaries and films preserving his legacy. Thousands of babies will be named Trayvon. And, justice will ultimately be served.

Trayvon was on the phone with his girlfriend at the time Zimmerman was following him. She told him to run. He said he didn't want to. And he shouldn't have needed to. Trayvon Martin stood his ground and he died for it. In America's chain of progress, he is already a major link.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why George Zimmerman Must Be Arrested and Tried For the Murder of Trayvon Martin

The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin one month ago in Sanford, Fl has all the earmarks of the 1964 Mississippi murders of civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner... right down to an inept local police department that, while not involved in the actual crime, as County Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff Lawrence Rainey and Cecil Price respectively had been forty-eight years ago, has failed to effectively investigate and arrest the killer. At best, it's an egregious dereliction of duty, and at worst it's a chilling example of the rampant racism that still exists in America today.

In many regions of the country there's been little material change regarding racial intolerance since Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were beaten and shot to death. In 2012, despite the presence of Lebron James, DisneyWorld and Northeast retirees, Florida is as much the bigoted deep South as 1964 Mississippi. Which is why both the Martin and Mississippi cases required intervention and investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice. So much for progress.

Martin's killer, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, has not been charged or arrested, and remains free in an outrageous, reprehensible travesty of justice. All thanks to Florida's misguided Stand Your Ground Law which states that any person may use deadly force if "he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another."

Zimmerman had been part of an unregistered neighborhood-watch program in his gated community, Retreat at Twin Lakes. Records show he called police at least 46 times in the last eight years to report various suspicious people and acts. According to The Orlando Sentinel and other news organizations, he was twice accused in 2005 of either criminal misconduct or violence. He was licensed to carry a concealed firearm, and had a black Kel-Tec semiautomatic handgun the night he shot Martin. Martin was found with only a can of Arizona Iced Tea and a bag of skittles. Last time I checked, no one's ever been killed by a beverage or a bag of candy.

Florida legislators maintain that Stand Your Ground does not provide a defense for people like Zimmerman who, despite being told by a 911 dispatcher to stop following Martin, pursued and confronted the youth before shooting him to death.

Zimmerman "has no protection under my law," said Florida Senator Durrell Peadon, who sponsored the law. And according to state Representative Dennis Baxley, "There’s nothing in this statute that authorizes you to pursue and confront people.” So how is it that Zimmerman, carrying a semi-automatic weapon, felt his life was in danger by a 17-year-old carrying nothing but candy and a drink?

Wendy Dorival is Sanford's volunteer coordinator for the Police Department. She helped train Zimmerman. She stated that those involved in neighborhood-watch programs are supposed to be "the eyes and ears" for the police, "not a vigilante.” Specifically, she said, members "are not supposed to confront anyone. We get paid to get into harm’s way. You don’t do that. You just call them from the safety of your home or your vehicle." She added that carrying and using a gun on patrol violates protocols.

Furthermore, the National Sheriffs’ Association, which sponsors the neighborhood-watch program nationwide, is 100% clear in its manual on this point as well: "Patrol members do not carry weapons," have no police power, and should “not attempt to apprehend a person committing a crime or to investigate a suspicious activity.” Lastly, not following the guidelines can result in serious consequences: "Each member is liable as an individual for civil and criminal charges should he exceed his authority."

Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee has resigned, but said “While I stand by the Sanford Police Department, its personnel and the investigation that was conducted in regards to the Trayvon Martin case, it is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process."

But that's not enough. What's needed here is justice. Logic and circumstantial evidence suggests that an innocent 17-year-old youth carrying nothing but candy and drink was murdered by an unemployed super-hero wannabe vigilante with a sketchy past and a semi-automatic gun hiding behind some Draconian law after being told by police to go home and let them investigate. It's hard to fathom on any conceivable level how Zimmerman can claim his act was in self-defense, or how and why Lee's police department would let him walk free....automatically presuming his innocence over Martin's. Martin is dead and can't defend himself. Hopefully the rest of America will.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Republican Vaginsanity

Why does a party whose members (pun intended) frequently get caught with their pants down have such a seemingly negative view of sex? The very guys who seem to have more mistresses than a Vegas whorehouse can't seem to stop obsessing over the fact that the rest of us like it too. We just don't want to have babies every time we play hide the salami. Lighten up already, righties, will ya!?

The latest uber-offensive, invasive legislative salvo's been fired out of Arizona, where House bill 2625 seeks to allow any employer to refuse birth control coverage if the intended uses are "for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes." What that means is that if a woman wants the cost of her contraception covered she has to prove to her employer that she needs it to treat medical conditions such as endometriosis rather than simply wanting to pound the flesh with her man. The law would also allow employers to fire a woman if it was disclosed that she took birth control for....birth control purposes.

"This shit's even more Draconian than me!" said Draco through a medium Thursday.

Arizona's foray into Vaginsanity comes on the heels of Virgina's failed efforts to force women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds (wasn't that Rick Santorum's teenage Christian rock band?) and Oklahoma's Personhood Act, which would grant full personhood rights to embryos from the point of fertilization.

"Finally, a bill that protects our rights as citizens!"
beamed Harry Gamete, President of Zygotes United.

Why, then, aren't Republicans aggressively proposing legislation to ban condoms? Wasted sperm is a wasted life, right? Isn't it a mammoth double-standard to only seek a ban on female contraception? If conservatives are so hot under the testes about birth control being used as pseudo-abortions, why not hold a special erection and stop it at the point of ejaculation? Oh wait, I remember...they can't outlaw condoms because they'll never be able to screw their mistresses again.

Which brings us back to Santorum, the Republican poster-boy for lust-less sex:

"One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, "Well, that's okay. Contraception's okay. It's not okay because it's a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

The day I listen to Rick Santorum about how sex is supposed to be is the day I castrate myself. The man who spends more time thinking about gay men and bestiality than the 12-million unemployed believes sex to be purely for married people to procreate.

"That's the perfect way that a sexual union should happen" (I thought he was anti-union?).

I guess that explains why Santorum's such a repressed tight-ass. If he's literally practiced what he's been sanctimoniously preaching, the poor guy's only gotten laid eight times in 22 years.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What "Game Change" Really Tells Us

The HBO film "Game Change" certainly portrays former vice presidential candidate and conservative firebrand Sarah Palin as ignorant, arrogant, erratic, impetuous and narcissistic. But the real villain in this saga is Sen. John McCain, the opportunistic mad scientist who birthed this Frankenstein and dangerously unleashed her on society.

McCain began the 2008 presidential campaign with his principles in tact and maintaining his enviable maverick status. But by the time it was all over he had sold his soul to the devil while creating a landscape that could've put America in the hands of the most unqualified politician the nation has ever seen. And that's the most indicting aspect of this entire story.

To be sure, we didn't need "Game Change" (the book or the movie) to inform or convince us of Palin's massive failings. Just listening to her speak gets us to that conclusion within seconds. But that McCain, despite knowing how woefully incapable she was, would put her within striking distance of the Oval Office is tantamount to treason. That he could so cavalierly abrogate his principles and risk the security of the nation purely for selfish political gain is an unconscionable, un-unpatriotic act and is glaringly in direct conflict with the phony "Country First" theme on which he disingenuously ran.

Yet to this day he ardently supports and defends Palin, as he did last weekend in an interview with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace: "I admire and respect her, I'm proud of our campaign and I'm humbled by the fact that I was able to give her the Republican vice-presidential nomination." He added that she was the "best qualified person."

But are we really to believe that this old-school, war-hardened career politician, one of the smartest guys out there, truly believes she was qualified for the most powerful and important job in the world in the event something happened to him? Given all that we've witnessed since, and what we now know from those inside the campaign, his behavior then, and now, is reprehensible and shameful.

McCain has made his bed and is still sleeping in it. It was and remains his choice to make Palin his legacy.

Monday, March 12, 2012

True Grits

"Mornin' Alabama! How y'all doin' today!? One thing's fo' sho', I need y'all's vote! Lordy bee, I been skootin' around so much I'm tired-er than a racoon at a garbage dump! I tell ya, I've been busier than a caterpillar at a toe-countin' contest!"

No, that's not Mitt Romney talking. It's his new alter-ego, Mr. Cheesy Grits. Romney, in his desperate, last minute attempt to win the Alabama and Mississippi primaries, has been trying to sound more Southern than Foghorn Leghorn. Nothing's more painful to watch than the uber-stiff, fake and uncomfortable Romney trying to connect with regular folk. Because the truth is, with Mitt Romney, there is no truth.

At a Dixie rally last week he told the crowd "I am learning to say y’all, and I like grits and things...strange things are happening to me." Strange for sure. But what's strange is that Romney thinks the way to win voters in the South is to turn them all into inarticulate, soul-food-eatin' caricatures. Perhaps a more effective strategy might've been to say, "Now I don't know a thing about fixing grits, and I'm not going to pretend I do. I'll leave that to Rick and Newt. But I'll tell you one thing, I know an awful lot about fixing the economy and creating jobs. That's why I deserve your vote."

But that won't ever happen on the Romney campaign trail, because that would require the candidate to sound like a real human being rather than a fork-tongued automaton who wouldn't know honesty and sincerity if it hit 'em in the neckbone.

Romney is the "severely conservative" candidate with more flip-flops than a Birkenstock store. From abortion, immigration and taxes to gay marriage, health care and the environment...from the way he talks to the food he claims to eat...with Mitt Romney it's what you see is, well, we have no idea what you get."

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

An Open Letter to Republicans

Dear Republicans...and in particular those running for the GOP nomination, as well as Congressmen and Senators like Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Roy Blunt, Marco Rubio and countless others. I just want to say, in this era of unprecedented political invective and vitriol, that I appreciate and respect you. I also want you to know that I am extremely thankful for your existence, and feel blessed by your consistency and predictability. I say all that because you guys have literally handed the White House on a silver platter to President Obama for another four years. And maybe even control of the House again too.

Who would have thought, just a few short months ago, that Obama would be out measuring drapes again. The economy, while clearly in a solid recovery to those who obsess over leading economic indicators, still appears fragile to most Americans. We still have high unemployment, record high fuel prices, a depressed housing market, weak manufacturing and way too many foreclosures, defaults and bankruptcies. A perfect storm making this year's elections ripe for the GOP picking, you say? The table couldn't have been better for you guys if Martha Stewart had set it herself.

So how do you Republicans respond? The first thing you do is turn your presidential nomination process into a circus complete with unqualified clowns like Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich dominating the three rings. And then you let these bozo's turn Mitt Romney, a generally decent, historically moderate guy, into a "severe conservative" in his rapacious hunger to win. What you did was say to voters, "We obviously don't take this election seriously, so why should you?"

Then, if that wasn't enough, while everyone wants to hear about what you'll do to fix the economy and create jobs, you guys go off on a non-stop tangent over religion, gay marriage, abortion and contraception. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you people!? You never learn. You simply can't help yourselves, can you? As your car is once again careening off a cliff you're still screaming about the evil of birth control and sex. This from a party with myriad mistresses and sensational sex scandals. I'm so confused. You guys clearly love sex. It just seems like you want to stop the rest of us from having it.

Lastly, just when it seems you could do no more to destroy your chances of winning in November you go ahead and let your spiritual leader Rush Limbaugh make outrageously misogynistic remarks--comments that attack an entire gender and offend all thinking people--with relative impunity. Not one of you running for president repudiates or condemns these despicable slurs or makes any attempt to distance yourself from this vile sexist pig. It's as if you're all happy that he's saying all the nasty crap you guys really wanna say yourself but can't.

So again I say, thank you. No, wait. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Because one mere thank you isn't enough. You guys and your radical extremist social views are the gift that keeps on giving. So keep it up! Keep all the God, gays and sex stuff coming. We love it.
A Very Grateful Democrat

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Republican War on Religion

The Blunt Bill, which sought to allow any employer in America to deny certain medical insurance coverage to employees on the grounds that it violates their personal religious beliefs, failed to pass the Senate last week. This bill would have widely expanded the Obama administration's January measure, as part of the new health care reform law, requiring religiously affiliated institutions to cover contraception. In a later compromise, Obama adjusted the rule to require insurance companies, rather than Catholic schools and hospitals, to guarantee contraceptive coverage if the religious institutions themselves refused. Since the controversy first heated up, Republicans have disingenuously framed the debate as a "war on religion." Nothing could be further from the truth.

And the truth is, America is a secular society. The Constitution provides for the separation of church and state, preventing government from mixing religion and politics. What the Obama administration has done with health care and its contraception policy is to protect religious freedom not assail or violate it.

Some Republicans, like presidential candidate Rick Santorum, have used the birth control issue to expound extreme social views. Contraception, he said, is "a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." The fact that the Centers for Disease Control cite that 99% of all American women have used birth control escapes the former Pennsylvania Senator. I suppose, in the infamous words of the GOP's spiritual leader Rush Limbaugh, these women are all "sluts" to Santorum.

So here's what it all boils down to: where do we draw the line with employers regarding contraception and other medical/health coverage? If the Catholic Church can take a pass on birth control, can a business owned by Christian Scientists pass on drugs, surgery and other conventional methods? Can Jewish-owned businesses deny delivery coverage unless parents of newborn males agree to circumcision? Should we simply say to those who don't like such policies, go to work someplace else?

Yeah, why not just let employers hire people who share their religious beliefs so there won't be an insurance problem, right? Wrong. That's called discrimination. There are laws protecting against such violations of religious freedom and one's ability to get a job without being subjected to religious Litmus tests.

Employers don't get to play God. And they don't get to decide what goes into or out of a woman's vagina. Nor do they get to pick and choose an employee's health coverage in an effort to satisfy their religious beliefs.

To be sure, there is no "war on religion" other than the one being waged by right-wing religious extremists like Santorum, Newt Gingrich and countless others who relentlessly attempt to impose their fanatical beliefs on everyone else.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Vagina Follies

Republican men are obsessed with vaginas. What goes in them, what comes out of them, who can touch them and, of course, those that belong to their mistresses. But to be sure, it's a very unhealthy obsession. For women, for the country and certainly for the Republican Party. This year's presidential election could literally be called "The Rise and Fall of the Vagina Empire."

Vaginas are the Republican volcanoes. They lay dormant for years and then, just when everything seems fine, they suddenly erupt, usually around election time. The nation could be at war, the economy could be in a tailspin, and voters could be more disenchanted than ever. A perfect storm of opportunity for the GOP you say, right? Wrong. With uncanny predictability we see these "severe conservatives" leapfrog over the obvious campaign gifts and crawl right back into the vagina of obscurity and defeat.

Vagina is the Republican crack. They want men to want them, enjoy them and control them. To the Republican male, a vagina is something only they know how to work and protect. To them, the women who own them are simply too dumb, slutty, amoral and lesbian to do what's best with them. So they legislate. They legislate the vagina, or at least try to. Which is why no matter how positive things could look for them in an election cycle, they keep driving off the cliff over abortion, contraception, gay marriage and all sorts of other meaningless social wedge issues designed to rile up their ignorant, backward, hypocritical masses.

But here's the rub. The Republican red meat lies rotting on the floor. The GOP masses aren't buying. That's because they're too busy using birth control, getting abortions and not giving a fuck who marries who anymore. They want jobs. They want financial security. They want better health care and less expensive education for their kids. Ya know, the kind of stuff President Obama constantly talks about and enacts. Which is why he will almost certainly win re-election, maybe even by a landslide, in November.

While Mitt Romney appears to be hanging on to some shred of true front-runner status and just might in fact be the inevitable Republican nominee, his victory won't come because of his wide appeal, his experience or his vision for America. It comes by default. He'll win simply because his opponents' crazy train has derailed and exploded. The campaigns of candidates who've taken extreme conservative social positions have died a horrible, humiliating death. If the GOP and its future candidates were smart, they'd learn from Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry and all the other vagina-obsessed dogmaticos who are setting the party back 300 years and making winning so damn easy for Democrats.