Sunday, July 21, 2013

No More "Conversations" About Race!

I promised that this posting would be about Nate Silver again.  As in:  how are we going to get along without him.  But in the interval, President Obama has spoken out about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.  I agree with all he says (see my posting after the verdict), but that's pointless because it's not my business to agree or disagree with him.  None of us can disagree with the other guy's experiences.  He's the one who is walking in his shoes.  He's the one who knows what's happening to him. We may try to go a mile in those shoes, but he has walked a lifetime in them.

What astonishes me is the reaction of others to his speech.  So many people saying they are surprised to hear about what young black men go through.  Really?

They think we certainly should have a "conversation" about race in this country.

Are they serious?  We have been having a conversation about race in this country for hundreds of years.  I'm white but, God Almighty, I say "Enough!"

Let's cut the talk and get rid of the racist laws, the racist law enforcement, the racist power structures, the wink-wink agreements between whites, like those among the prosecution team in the Zimmerman case.  Absent a "gentlemen's agreement", how can you explain a prosecution that allows an all-white jury, that doesn't prepare its key black witnesses, that accepts without question the defense staging of the last moments of Martin's life by showing him on top even though there were witnesses to the contrary.   And on and on.  As a retired attorney with some criminal defense experience I was astounded at how the prosecution pulled its punches against Zimmerman.

And it's like this all the time and everywhere.  Blacks have a hard time in this country whether we have a black president or not.  In fact, just when black male youngsters had Obama as the ultimate role model, the GOP response to the recession guaranteed that the already inadequate schools in black neighborhoods would get worse. It's great to have a role model, but you had damn well better have a decent education too.

So we don't need a conversation.  The only conversation that's relevant is the one that all the white talking heads apparently know nothing about.  And here it is:

In the South when a black male child turns six years old, he gets "the talk".  It is made very, very clear to him that he is never again to play with any little white girls.  He is never to speak to them or any white person unless spoken to first.  He must step off the sidewalk and make way for  any white person. Any white person.  Even the town drunk.

He must put up with being called "boy" until he is an old man, an "Uncle Tom".  He is never, never to insist on being called "Mister".  He must help any white person who asks him and do anything they ask by way of help.  He must never contradict a white person.  Or try to get ahead of them in anything.

Above all, he mustn't look at white females.  Or whistle at them. Or try to engage them in talk or banter.

That's the mistake 14-year-old Emmett Till made back in 1955.  Visiting in Mississippi from Chicago, he didn't know "the code of the South".  Apparently he said something to the woman running a little shack of a store.  Her husband and his brother kidnapped Emmett that night and gouged out his eye and tortured and killed him.  After they were acquitted by  -  of course  -  an all-white jury, they bragged of what they had done.

But Emmett's mother was not finished with what had happened. She insisted on an open casket and a public funeral.  What could be seen in the casket fired up the Civil Rights Movement.  And the rest is history.

Except it isn't.  It isn't history because it's still an unfinished piece of work.  Maybe "we shall overcome someday" but we sure as hell haven't done it yet.  That's why Trayvon Martin is dead.   And why his killer goes free.

So what comes next?  Tune in next time for a look into the future on this matter by someone who can look back on a long stretch of our past.  And, yes, we shall get to the Promised Land, just like that other Martin said.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hi Ho, Nate Silver! Away!

This is really sad news:  Nate Silver is leaving us politicos.  He's going over to the sporticos.  His column will disappear from the New York Times soon, and the man himself will instead appear on ESPN.

There is a faint glimmer of hope that he will return to us when politics heats up again in 2014, but he won't come back in his recent form as a print columnist.  Instead he will be a consultant at ABC News.

The loss is triple-barreled.  We will lose the reliability of where and when to find him and his analysis.  As it has been up until now, we knew exactly where he was at all times:  the New York Times "Politics" section.  With this change, he's first going to be floating around as some sort of "color man" at some unspecified sporting events on ESPN.  And he sure won't be discussing politics!  Instead it will be stuff like how many runs batted in when there was a left-handed pitcher, it was just starting to rain, and a horse galloped onto the field.

When he returns to politics by being on ABC, we won't know where and when to find him.  If anyone thinks I'm going to watch ABC around the clock on the off-chance of spotting Nate Silver, they are crazy.  I'll only follow him on ABC if he has a regular, predictable spot.  That's just how it is, baby!

There's something even worse that results from his move to TV.  Mainly that it is indeed a a move to TV, i.e. he's abandoning print.  And there was never any content that more required print than does Nate's stuff.  Do he and ABC really believe people want to hear that the final nine-tenths of a percent of the fourth largest voting block in twenty-three states that actually voted in 1996 above 54% only does so in years when the overall percentage of registered voters exceeds the prior year's registration by at least 6.8%.  (I made that up, but  -  who knows  -  maybe it's true?)

In short, what is a treat to the analytical mind is a nightmare for the ear.  And without his wonderful down-in-the-weeds statistics, Nate Silver is just another pretty face.  Well, actually he's not that good-looking  (sorry, Nate) and he has all the presence on TV of a little kid who has just kicked his ball over the fence, i.e. he always looks like he'd rather be somewhere else.  That's' why he'll be on ABC and not MSNBC or just good old NBC.  He's not compelling enough for those last two and not quite weird enough for PBS or goofus enough for CNN. Thus poor old Nate has been relegated to the seat next to the door, i.e. ABC,  so he can disappear without a tear.  Because, let's face it, folks, nobody gets their in-depth political news from ABC.  Nobody.

Lawrence O'Donnell and I placed all our chips on Nate in 2012.  None of the other commentators did. (And, yes, I'm emboldened by your readership enough to count myself a "commentator".)   They all bought into the Gallup errors and into the GOP crap about "close race" and "surge" and even a silly last minute scenario of Romney winning Pennsylvania.  The GOP so hates Obama because of his being half black that they believed their own nonsense right down to election night when Karl Rove refused to accept Fox News' calling Ohio for Obama.  And, oh, how I still love to remember that moment,  confidently laughing at Rove because Nate Silver had told us Obama was going to win Pennsylvania.

So what do we do now?  How do we get along without Nate?  The answer will be posted here next time.  Just be assured that all is not lost.   Further, there will be yet another post about Nate beyond that one, a post that asks the ever-pressing question, "Who was that masked man?"



Sunday, July 14, 2013

There Will Be More Zimmermans Going Free and More Dead Children

Not guilty.

George Zimmerman couldn't be found guilty because Florida law made it impossible.  Let me put it this way:  I'm  buying each of you a steak and lobster dinner every time a defendant in a stand-your-ground killing is convicted in spite of asserting self-defense.  Friends, you are going to wait a long time for those dinners.

A stand-your-ground law says in effect that you can, with impunity, shoot anybody at any time anywhere provided you thought you were in danger of your life or of serious injury.  You don't have to do sensible things like stay in your car or your house and lock the doors or walk away from a fight or just mind your own business.  All you have to do is say you are afraid and pull the trigger.

And it's up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not afraid.

That's a big burden for the prosecution.  How do you prove what was in someone else's mind?  Admittedly the prosecution in the Zimmerman case was pretty inept, but in reality it was up against a high fence on the issue of Zimmerman's state of mind.  And it always will be, absent some strong evidence that the shooter was not afraid  -  like a third-party's footage of the shooter dancing around in an Uncle Sam hat and yelling at the victim-to-be, "Nyah! Nyah! Who's ascared of you, you little skinny noodle punk!"  This doesn't happen a lot.

But the stand-your-ground defense happens all too often.  Here in my Central Pennsylvania area some homeowner shot a 15-year-old boy to death because the boy approached the shooter's window in the mistaken belief he was at the home of a friend.  The boy wasn't at the shooter's door and he wasn't trying to get in.  He was just outside a window because he was lost. And for that he is dead.

The shooter was not even charged with manslaughter.  He wasn't charged with anything.  He said he was afraid and claimed self-defense.  The cops and the DA figured he must have been afraid because, after all, he shot the kid, didn't he?  So you've got this circular reasoning.  Shoot someone because you're afraid and we'll know you were afraid because you shot the person.  Pretty soon we'll all have a duty to shoot each other on sight!

Do you worry about your kids, especially your sons and grandsons?

God forbid they should wear a hoodie.  Or be out after dark.  Or be in a neighborhood where people are afraid of "them".  Or live in a state where the stupid and ugly racist element of the GOP has taken control of the state government  and endowed every armed person with impunity to shoot whomever they like whenever they like.

Yes, you'd better worry about your sons and grandsons.  And meantime we can all mourn Trayvon Martin and the fifteen-year-old Pennsylvania boy, both executed by reckless or puffed-up idiots for being absolutely innocent and doing nothing but being young men.

2010 was a bad year for a lot of people, politically.  Maybe 2014 will be better.  Maybe we can get some state legislatures that enact sensible laws.  Maybe.

It's up to you, isn't it?


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

With Enemies Like the GOP, Who Needs Friends?

It takes your breath away.

For the past several years the GOP has stumbled from one dumb move to another.  Examples?

- Running Mitt Romney for president.

- Insulting as often as possible the Latinos, the fastest growing minority in the country.

- Insulting the largest block of voters, i.e.women, by threatening their health care.

- Lining up on all occasions with the 1%.

- Saying "no" to popular ideas, e.g. equal rights for gays, gun controls, food for hungry children and seniors.

- Embracing unpopular ideas, like threatening to put the country into bankruptcy in 2011 by failing to lift the debt ceiling.

There are so many other examples that one more hardly seems necessary.  But those clever little Republicans in the House have actually defied the enervating heat of summer to come up with yet another of their "Ideas for Idiots".

This new idea is not as simplistic and wildly exciting as, say, deporting 11 million undocumented people, but it's pretty good for mid-July.  Having failed almost 40 times to repeal the new health insurance law, the Republicans in the House are now demanding the Obama administration put a hold on the law's requirement that the uninsured (with federal aid if needed) buy health insurance.  The GOP gleefully ties this demand to the federal decision announced days ago that businesses with over 50 employees will get a one-year delay in the requirement they buy health insurance for their workers.

"How come," taunt the Republicans, "the Democrats are giving a break to big business but not to ordinary people?"  Or in the more elegant prose of Speaker John Boehner, "Hell, no! It's not fair!"

What a politically silly position to take!  The GOP has just opened the door much wider to a good result for Democrats in the 2014 elections.  All along the Democrats have worried about the impact of the health care law on the mid-term elections, particularly the provision, effective in 2014, requiring individuals purchase health insurance.  Now the GOP has suggested a way to take that card off the table.

The GOP has suggested the idea!  Get that?  The GOP is saving the Democrats' bacon!

Like we used to say about our Democratic presidential nominees in the days of Dukakis and Mondale:  "Where do they get these people?" The GOP has found a way not only to embrace a lot of crazies and dummies but has actually put the dummies into the House leadership.  The idea of delaying the mandate has the eager approval of Boehner himself!  What is he smoking?

Want some frosting on the cake?  The House GOP wants to tie this delay provision to the debt ceiling bill in September.  Yes!  You heard right!  This means the debt ceiling bill will pass easily with lots of GOP votes.  Even Michele Bachmann couldn't resist voting for a bill that includes a seemingly big swipe at "Obamacare".

Come here, John Boehner, you old sweetheart!  I just want to give you a big hug, orange teddy bear that you are!

With enemies like you and your cohorts, who needs friends?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Hey, Grandma Jo and Other Commentators Happening By!

My blog site now won't let me post my replies to your comments unless I choose a "profile" among 6 things I never heard of.  I'll take NSA any time over the craziness of the non-government on-line world.

In its infinite and much-vaunted diagnostic cleverness, the on-line commercial world has concluded that I live over a hundred miles from where I do, am a homosexual looking for guys and am in need of both additional male equipment and (separate ad) Viagra.  All the foregoing although my definitely female name of Dorothy is part of my email address. (Or is "Dorothy" a misleading element?)  The commercial Net world also believes I buy my car insurance in Arkansas instead of in Pennsylvania.  And that I have an overwhelming need of patio furniture even though I have never bought any patio furniture on-line or looked for any.  I don't even have a patio.

So, Grandma Jo, locked out of my own blog by "technology", I'm replying to your comment by way of this post, to wit:

--------   Thanks, Grandma Jo, for the comment on my "Snowden and Zimmerman Are Batman and Robin?".  Maybe it takes a couple of grandmas like us to spot  phonies like Snowden?  Also thanks for reading my stuff for quite a while now.  And don't buy any patio furniture on-line.  Ever.  We must not encourage stupidity, right? ------

Snowden and Zimmerman Are Batman and Robin?

What is it with certain guys?

They live in a fantasy world chiefly centered on themselves as super heroes right out of the comic books.  Pow! Bang! Thump!  They go through life strewing havoc in the name of heroism.  Everything from killing JFK to 9/ll-style jihad.

Who the hell do they think they are?

Snowden thinks he knows better than anyone else what is good for me and my fellow citizens as to our privacy and our safety.  We never asked him to make this call.  We ask our elected officials to do that.  Our approach is called democracy.  Snowden's approach is called anarchy.

Zimmerman thinks he's a one-man "police" department with the vigilante duties of spotting and then killing "suspicious-looking" people on the basis of their race and their hoodies.  The citizens of his area didn't ask him to follow and accost the Martin boy he shot to death.  In fact, the policewoman on Zimmerman's 911 call advised him to back off.  But Zimmerman persisted in pursuing and then confronting young Martin and now has the chutzpah to claim self-defense for killing the boy.  He wants us to believe that his round mound of a self was hurtled to the ground by a skinny 17-year-old.  Unlike the White Queen in "Alice", I can't believe six impossible things before breakfast nor even one as late as supper time.

What is it in our society that nurtures the Zimmermans and Snowdens and the long list of their predecessors? From the assassins of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and JFK,  the line stretches all the way back to John Wilkes Booth shooting Lincoln and then yelling, "Thus perish tyrants."  They all thought they were hot stuff and would be famous heroes. They were wrong about that.  Even though the South had hated Lincoln, it couldn't embrace Booth as a martyr. It was paying too dear a price for the loss of Lincoln and the snuffing out of his compassion.  And sneaks who shoot men from the rear are not in the Southern style.

We owe immense national heartbreak  to a long line of little men, most actually small in stature though this mattered only to them.  All of them were "losers" but chiefly in their own estimation.  America insists that anyone who isn't a super hero or otherwise "famous" is a loser.  And these dumb guys believed that.  They couldn't stand to be "just ordinary".  They didn't know that there are no ordinary people.  Every human is extraordinary.  We writers know that.  That's why we write fiction.  Shakespeare knew that.  So did Chaucer.  And great literature begins with that insight, as does most art and religion.

Is it a male thing?  The fear of being unfamous?  Why this dreadful need to be a top dog?

We had better figure out how not to be so competitive a society because, at its extreme, it breeds very dangerous men. And not just the "losers" like the Zimmermans and Snowdens, but also the guys who "win" in business by knowingly producing dangerous products or by heedlessly polluting our world.  Or by selling goods in America that were made in a factory where a thousand people have now perished in a fire because of "cost-cutting".  

How much heartbreak can we stand?  How bad are we going to feel if Snowden's massive leaks cause another 9-11?

After all, it won't be happening in Gotham City.  It will be happening in our real world.

Deliver us, we pray, from the little men in masks of arrogance, caped as they are in self-righteousness, who think they are rescuing us.  And tell them no one but an idiot believes in heroes who wear their underpants on the outside of their clothes.