Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WeinerGate 2.0: The Misadventures of Carlos Danger

He arrogantly used the pseudonym Carlos Danger as he trolled the Internet looking for high-risk, no-actual-sex sexual encounters with college-age women. With a few bold keystrokes and even bolder penis pics, he engaged in uber-graphic erotic chatter that would make a porn star blush. Of course, we're talking about New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, whose 2011 sexting scandal cost him his Congressional seat, a whole heap of voter respect, and nearly his marriage to Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

In the wake of that scandal he offered a half-hearted, calculating, politically-expedient mea culpa which included the warning that more instances of his online hijinks were likely to surface in the future. What no one expected is that he was referring to the sexting and shlong-selfies he'd continue to send out in the year after his resignation from Congress and after the birth of his son.

Earlier this week a new revelation surfaced that "Carlos" continued lying to voters, his wife and the media by sending out additional sexts and weiner-shots to at least one other young woman for over a year, and as late as last Summer. This time his partner-in-crime was a 22-year-old Indiana woman named Sydney Leathers. Weiner and Leathers. You can't make this stuff up.

In an effort at damage control, and with his saint-like wife by his side, Weiner spoke to reporters Tuesday in a hastily scheduled press conference, complete with all the usual insincerity and duplicity we've come to expect from him, to reaffirm his candidacy, the strength of his marriage, the support from Huma, and that he's a changed man.

"It's in our rear view mirror," Weiner said of his scandalous behavior. But I suspect that this latest episode in WeinerGate is likely to derail his once-promising campaign. Judging from recent polls, which had Weiner comfortably ahead of former front-runner and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, voters seemed inclined to forgive his past indiscretions.

For a bright guy Weiner can't seem to stop making some mind-numbingly dumb decisions. He could've been one of those lucky bastards who, despite a humiliating fall from grace, was afforded a second chance. And he blew it. He misused and abused the public's trust and it's not likely he'll get a third chance. His lack of judgement and utter recklessness makes him unfit for office. There's a morality and integrity deficiency, and voters, especially the old Jewish and Italian kind who comprise a huge part of his Queens and Brooklyn base, can be unforgiving once they've crossed an important threshold. If Mr. Danger can't control the overpowering and dangerous impulses that he's clearly afflicted with then he can't be trusted to run New York City and exercise the kind of judgement and discipline that that monumentally important job requires. As crazy as this sounds, Weiner's actually making Eliot Spitzer seem like a pretty stand-up guy. And that's no easy feat.
To be sure, Weiner's candidacy is dead. It's just a short matter of time before he accepts his fate and pulls out (pun intended). The scandal is now dominating his media airtime and voter facetime, and it's become impossible for him to discuss the issues facing New York. Don't be surprised if he doesn't last the weekend...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wasn't Obama's Racism Speech One of Those "Conversations" Republicans Keep Saying We Need to Have?

Republicans are always pushing for national "conversations" about tough subjects like gun control and racism. And with good reason: it's a successful bait-and-switch strategy to keep them from ever having to actually do anything about these hot-button issues.

"What we need is an adult conversation," these empathy-bankrupt conservatives say when a violent monster shoots up a school, or when an over-zealous neighborhood-watch vigilante profiles, stalks and kills a black teenager. "Time for an honest discussion," they suggest with feigned sincerity when outrage and a demand for action comes from the left.

Yes, conservatives just love having conversations, except when it's with a black president talking openly and honestly about the kind of persistent racism in America that results in an unarmed black kid being shot dead by an armed white adult. Then they're not so keen on discussion.

Republicans have expressed anger and disbelief at President Obama over his remarks last Friday during an impromptu White House address on racism and the Trayvon Martin case. Obama spoke passionately about his personal experiences with racial profiling and discrimination in an effort to humanize the struggles black males face in everyday life.

The president's address clearly touched a raw nerve in conservatives, who ratcheted up their toxic rhetoric. Since Friday these rabid right-wingers have accused him of favoring blacks; ignoring black-on-black crime; race-baiting; and threatening the rights of gun owners.

"It is not surprising that the president uses it seems every opportunity he can to try to go after our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms," said Texas Senator Ted Cruz. "I think it is unfortunate that this president and this administration has a consistent disregard for the Bill of Rights." 

"President Obama is now our race-baiter in Chief," Fox News contributor Todd Starnes wrote on Facebook. "His remarks today on the Trayvon Martin tragedy are beyond reprehensible."

"Unfortunately, President Obama is a fraud as a uniter," said former Cincinnati mayor and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is black. "He has been an inconsequential leader of the United -- underscore United States of America."

Fox's Sean Hannity used Obama's own words to wage a reprehensible attack against him, while essentially blaming Martin for his own death because of drug use:

"Now the president's saying Trayvon could've been me 35 years ago," Hannity said on his radio show. "This is a particularly helpful comment. Is that the president admitting that I guess because what, he was part of the Choom Gang and he smoked pot and he did a little blow -- I'm not sure how to interpret because we know that Trayvon had been smoking pot that night."

One conservative commentator on MSNBC's Hardball Friday night outrageously declared that Obama "is not a 'black' president." Well, he actually is, whether or not she or any other in-denial bigot wants to accept it.

Yes, white America, we have a black man in the White House. And he's the President of the United States, not the butler. So when an unarmed black teenager gets blasted in the heart at point-blank range by the deadly bullet of an armed white man's pistol under the most questionable and controversial of circumstances, and the killer is subsequently acquitted, this black president is going to speak out about it. But why is his commentary evidence, as Republicans claim, that "he's not the president of 'all' people?"

Just what do Obama's critics want? Is he supposed to pretend not to be black in order to appease white racists? Is he expected to be "presidential" and speak out when there's a hurricane, a plane crash, a school massacre or a movie-theater shooting, but avoid discussing anything impacting black people? Does discussing issues relating to blacks inherently make him biased or a race-baiter? What exactly does it mean when people demand that he be "the president for 'all' people?" Do blacks not count as people? Are they not a constituency? Is he precluded from being their advocate too because he's black?

Even more infuriating is when these racists who attack Obama claim that they have a more acute understanding of the injustices blacks experience in America and, worse, that blacks' perceptions about race and racism are overstated and outdated. To be sure, only a racist would deny that racism exists.

And look what happens when a black president attempts to have an "adult conversation" about race and racism. Look how quickly those on the right no longer want to talk. Theirs is the party that neither wants to legislate or communicate.

As an aside, when Obama's said "Trayvon could've been me 35 years ago," I wish he'd added the following sentence:"...and how many white Americans see a black boy and their first thought is, 'there goes a future president.'" That would've been a fitting punctuation on the Trayvon tragedy, and the realities that teens like him will continue to face until these empty "conversations" turn into action. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

What Zimmerman's Weight Gain Might Be Telling Us

The murder trial of George Zimmerman in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has occupied the public's consciousness and airwaves since the shooting occurred February 26, 2012. But little attention has been focused on the amount of weight Zimmerman has gained since that night. And I believe this conspicuous physiological change demonstrates his guilt.

Zimmerman appears to have added roughly 100 pounds or more, which seems an atypical feat for an allegedly innocent man facing a potential life sentence for killing a kid. The more likely change would've been a significant loss of weigh from having no appetite as he anxiously and fearfully awaited his fate. But to gain that amount of weight Zimmerman's appetite had to have been gargantuan this past year, suggesting that it is a radical manifestation of the guilt and shame that's consumed him since he killed Martin.

Yes, George Zimmerman feels like shit. He killed a kid. A teenager who he knows was innocent. He's not a sociopath. A sociopath feels no guilt. No shame. No remorse. I don't think Zimmerman left his home that night wanting to or thinking he was going to kill someone, especially a child. I genuinely believe he's been tortured by the horrible course of events that turned his Dirty Harry-wannabe act into the tragic, shocking gun-death of a kid holding nothing but a bag of Skittles and an iced-tea. Everything he believes he stood for has been turned on its head. His life is out of control. All because a bullet from that loaded pistol, for which he had an insatiable desire and need to carry, tore through the heart of Trayvon Martin. And so he eats. He eats to dull the insurmountable pain...and the guilt...and the shame. His eating is a product of self-loathing.

Psychologists and those who've personally experienced eating disorders say that people often overeat in an attempt to repress such feelings of guilt and shame...of self-hatred. That extreme weight gain over such a short period of time, as in Zimmerman's case, is a manifestation of these feelings. Has he eaten massive amounts because he hasn't told the truth and is literally burying his lies with food? Like his innate desire to protect his neighborhood--which ended with disastrous results--his overeating is the most basic form of self-care gone horribly wrong. And it's not what one would expect from an allegedly innocent man who truly believes he was justified in the eyes of the law and his God.

Many psychologists also view eating as a sensual act. So it's a little bizarre that someone who's professing innocence, and believes he's being stripped of his basic freedoms, would eat so excessively. There's a reason prisoners go on hunger-strikes. They're denying themselves food as a symbolic act in protest of the injustices cast upon them. The food-as-sensual-reward theory is probably why we don't see any binge-eating strikes.

But in fairness, to give another perspective of Zimmerman's weight gain, psychologists might argue that some people eat simply because they're experiencing high degrees of stress. But they generally attribute that stress to the kind of routine daily pressures and anxieties of work and family--not from killing someone--and from which food is used to self-soothe.

To be sure, the cause of Zimmerman's massive weight gain is speculative at best, as is the belief by many that his reaction to hearing the verdict further suggests his guilt. Wouldn't a truly innocent man have shown some sort of emotional release...a look of relief, a gasp, a sigh, tears or all of the above? Instead, Zimmerman stared straight ahead, motionless and emotionless... without changing his facial expression even one single tick. You could almost hear him thinking to himself..."Holy shit, I got away with it..."

Friday, July 12, 2013

Is There Any Hope For Egypt?

A little over a week ago Egypt's Army generals, claiming to be executing the will of the people, staged a military coup to overthrow Mohamed Morsi, the country's first Democratically-elected president. Since then, the country has spiraled downward into religious persecution and violence, tearing its fabric into two major factions--the Muslim Brotherhood, many of whose top Islamic leaders have been arrested and jailed, including Morsi, and the secular generals-- which seem headed for a full-scale civil war.

As a result, Egypt's nascent, fragile Democracy is in danger of disappearing and never returning. But what's most troubling is to see the level of support for the military, and the unbridled enthusiasm for its brutal actions this week and last, by tens of millions of Egypt's civilians...most of whom viewed the army as the enemy just one year ago prior to the revolution which ushered in the so-called "Arab Spring." Now they're jubilantly hopping in bed with these bombastic, disingenuous, power-hungry generals in such a naive and misguided manner. Troubling as well is the claim that last week's overthrow was not a military coup.
Let's be clear: the generals' decision to send tanks rolling through the streets as they deposed and arrested Morsi and his his top Muslim Brotherhood government leaders is, by definition and by all logic and reason, a military coup. Islamist media outlets have been shut down, the Constitution suspended, and Parliament dissolved.

Egyptians can call it whatever they like to fit their "Revolution 2.0" narrative, but right now Egypt's "Democracy" and "free elections" exist only until the military decides to change that. It's surprising--shocking actually--that many Egyptians are celebrating this coup rather than condemning it while fighting for Morsi's ouster through electoral means. A process where everyone gets to vote on the outcome, not just the dissenters.

Egyptians will have to decide whether they want to live in a true Democracy or amid military rule. Can't have both. This notion of "let's have free elections ...until we don't like the other side that won and then we'll stage a military coup and depose them and arrest all of their top leaders, shut their tv stations, shut Parliament and suspend the Constitution"is disingenuous, dangerous and certainly not in Egypt's best interest long-term. The country is going to be torn apart over this coup, and undoing everything Egyptians fought so hard for in the revolution of 2012. This is exactly the sort of oppressive autocratic rule the people rallied against. And now Egyptians are posing for photos with soldiers? The same military which has choked the country for sixty years? The military is not with the people. It is using the people. It cares only about holding onto its power.

Egypt must strive for a true Democracy, under the rule of law, where its citizens are truly free. A political system where leaders are elected and voted out when the people want change. Where votes, not intimidation, coercion and violence, are the agents of that change. Right now, as perplexing as it is, Egyptians have willingly turned their country back over to the near-fascist rule of brutal military generals who've turned Democracy and progress on its head and rolled the clock back to the Nassar days...

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Picking Apart Zimmerman's Hannity Interview

I listened again this past weekend to the full interview accused murderer George Zimmerman gave last July to Fox's Sean Hannity. As I outlined last week in "Critical Points About the Trayvon Martin Case,", there are many reasons to doubt Zimmerman's innocence. The interview with Hannity only reinforces my belief in his obvious guilt.

A snapshot of the various inconsistencies, contradictions, misrepresentations and lies from the interview:

1. Zimmerman claims he was not following Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black youth he shot and killed after being allegedly attacked by him. Yet he tells Hannity "I meant that I was going in the same direction as him, to keep an eye on him so that I could tell the police where he was going. I didn't mean that I was actually pursuing him." Call me crazy, but isn't that the definition of "following?"

2. He claims he left his car behind and continued walking (while "not following" Trayvon) because he was unsure of where he was:  "Where I parked my car was the back of townhouses. There was no way to know what the street number was." A neighborhood watch guy in a small development has no idea where he is? Not plausible.

3. He claims Trayvon looked like he was up to no good. Like he was on drugs. "I felt he was suspicious because it was raining. He was in-between houses, cutting in-between houses, and he was walking very leisurely for the weather. I -- it didn't look like he was a resident that went to check their mail and got caught in the rain and was hurrying back home. He didn't look like a fitness fanatic that would train in the rain." What kind of convoluted nonsense is this? Furthermore, it was night time, he saw Martin from a distance, and it was raining. Just exactly why did he appear suspicious, other than simply being a black kid in a hoodie hanging around his dad's apartment. Would he have looked "suspicious" had he been a white kid?

4. At first Zimmerman had said Trayvon was "running" but then changed his story: "Maybe I said running, but he was skipping, going away quickly. But he wasn't running out of fear." Really? Maybe he was running because a strange adult male with a gun was stalking him in a menacing way?

5. He claims he shot Trayvon while he was being beaten and was screaming for his life. But after he shot him he claims he did not know Trayvon was dead until an hour later at the police station. How is it possible that Zimmerman, with Trayvon lying on the ground bleeding from a gunshot wound to the heart, didn't at least do the humane thing and check to see the kid's condition...if he was dead, or in fact still alive and needing help? He just shoots Martin and walks away?

6. After he fired his gun, he claims Trayvon "sat up and he said something to the effect of "you got it" or "you got me". I assumed he meant, OK, you got the gun, I didn't get it. I'm not going to fight anymore. At which point I got out from under him." This is utterly preposterous. Is that really what he believes Trayvon was thinking? Zimmerman said he had "discharged my firearm," so obviously he knew he shot Trayvon. We're supposed to believe this incredibly implausible scenario? 

7. He talks about using words like "punk" to describe Trayvon and recants what he previously told cops and the 911 dispatcher that 'the bad guys always get away.' This suggests anger and a predispostion. The actions of a Dirty Harry wannabe. It suggests that it was he, not Trayvon, who was looking for a confrontation that night.

8. He claims Trayvon repeatedly "slammed" his head into the sidewalk. That he was also punched in the head a dozen times or so. But expert medical testimony showed only "insignificant" injuries. The physiological evidence simply doesn't support this claim.

9. Zimmerman claims he knows when Trayvon first saw his gun: "After we were on the ground, I shimmied with him on top of me, and it made my jacket rise up. He, being on top of me, saw it on my right side." How does he know this? Did Trayvon say something about seeing the gun? A black gun, in a black holster, stuck behind Zimmerman in his back, on a dark rainy night, during a scuffle? And to the claim that there was a struggle for the gun, how come there were no traces of Trayvon's DNA on the gun? To that end, nor was there any Zimmerman DNA under Trayvon's fingernails...casting further doubt on the claims of him receiving such a savage, continued beating and attempts at suffocation. Martin had just a couple of minor scrapes on two of his fingers. Wouldn't he have had more bruising and cuts/abrasions, as well as DNA traces, if he delivered such a beating? 

10. He told Hannity that prior to the shooting he never heard of Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law. But that's an outright lie. An instructor who taught a class Zimmerman attended in 2010 testified last week that the law had been discussed in detail in his class.

11. He bizarrely points to a moment while in jail when he was supported by other convicts: "There was one instance when I was in the rec yard by myself and in the window a few inmates got together and just made a sign of strength to me." Are we to be impressed and/or moved by this alleged demonstration of solidarity from a a bunch of incarcerated law-breaking cretins, most likely white supremacists? That Zimmerman would even make this comment is especially insensitive and creepy. 

It's hard to walk away from that Hannity interview thinking anything but that Zimmerman is a cold, callous, highly calculating murderer who claims the entire tragedy was "God's plan;"who doesn't regret carrying a weapon or pursuing Trayvon; and who believes he will be acquitted.  He's a tone-deaf liar who claims that when Hannity first asked him if he would've done anything differently that fateful night he actually said: "When you asked that I thought you were referring to if I would not have talked to the police, if I would have maybe have gotten an attorney, if I wouldn't have taken the CVSA (computer voice stress analysis) and that I stand by, I would not have done anything differently." That's what his initial thoughts were about "doing something differently?" Not that he wouldn't have killed this kid?

A final thought: if Zimmerman is truly innocent, why did he give the interview to the conservative, pro-gun, softball-tossing, white-audienced Hannity and Fox? Why not Brian Williams, or Matt Lauer, or someone objective and qualified to discredit his ridiculous assertions? Or better yet, why do such damage control at all? Wouldn't he have appeared more credible if he'd issued a simple statement such as: "I am innocent of these charges and will not try this case in the court of public opinion but rather in a court of law...where I am confident justice will be served." Getting in bed with Hannity--just as Sarah Palin and other embattled conservatives have done--only serves to demonstrate a probability of guilt and a desire to control the narrative and spin a defense in a warm, friendly setting.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Critical Points in the Trayvon Martin Case

As Yogi Berra once famously said, "It's deja vu all over again." That's precisely the feeling I get about the trial of George Zimmerman, who prosecutors have charged with second-degree murder in the February 26, 2012 death of 17-year-old black youth Trayvon Martin. It's the Johnny Cochran Magic Glove Circus Part 2 and, I fear, with the same ultimate outcome.

There's a few key points that need stressing, as I believe they speak to the heart of this case and why it's painfully clear to anyone with half a brain in their heads that Zimmerman, like O.J. Simpson, appears to be a ruthless, unrepentant killer.

Critical fact #1: Zimmerman was an armed adult, in a car, who was instructed by a 911 dispatcher to stay put and not pursue Martin, an unarmed kid. In his own statement to police the night of the shooting Zimmerman wrote, “The dispatcher told me not to follow the suspect and that an officer was in route.” His attorneys can muddy the waters with all their 'if it don't fit you must acquit'-like bullshit, but this fact renders the claim of self-defense absurd.     

Critical fact #2: The defense can have witness after witness testify that Zimmerman was on his back while a straddling Martin pummeled him. So what? Is that not a likely scenario for a kid who believes its his life that's in danger? That he has reason to believe he's going to die at the hands of a hot-headed Lone Ranger wannabe with a fucking gun? What difference does it make if Martin had him on the ground and was punching him? It's irrelevant unless you believe an armed Zimmerman had the unequivocal right to stalk an unarmed kid and then claim self-defense when the fearful kid defended himself against this nutbag with a gun. If so, then you believe Zimmerman gets to call all the shots: the pursuit, the confrontation, the shooting, the self-defense angle....while Martin gets to call nothing. That he's just a featured extra in Zimmerman's "Dirty Harry" movie.   

Critical fact #3: Just because someone gets into a fight, is losing that fight, and even losing big, doesn't give him the legal justification to use deadly force to protect himself. Imagine a society where every fistfight ended in death just because one of the combatants had a gun and didn't like getting his ass whipped. Even if what his lawyers claim was true--that he was receiving a vicious beating from Martin--Zimmerman, the armed 29-year-old, didn't have the right to kill this unarmed teenager unless he had a reasonable fear that his own life was in danger.

And to that point, one key witness this week, Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, said she reviewed Zimmerman's medical records and photos taken of his injuries at the police station after the fight. "They were not life-threatening. They were very insignificant."  

Which is why it's quite convenient that Zimmerman, whose defense team needs to demonstrate that he had a reasonable fear that he was going to die in order to justify deadly force, claims that Martin told him “You gonna die tonight mother fucker.” I guess the defense team's strategy is to exploit hearsay and scripted dialogue in order to demonstrate what the physical evidence cannot.