Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Sad Response to a Passionate Person I Admire

 I guarantee you if some weirdo is following me in the rain, in the dark, I'm going to use whatever means I can to protect myself. I'm not going to wait for him to jump me, I'm going to scratch and claw, use my keys, whatever I have to do to get this guy to realize he's chosen the wrong person to follow! Trayvon did NOTHING wrong! GZ should have NEVER gotten out of his damn car. It's Neighborhood WATCH, not Neighborhood Pursue and Provoke. It doesn't make me feel one bit sorry for GZ that he will have to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life wondering when that guy behind him is going to pounce. That's what he did to Trayvon and now it's his turn to see what it feels like! Get good and used to it George!

      Or... you could call the cops and tell them you are being followed as you go to a convenient safe place, like the one just around the corner where you are staying.  By initiating violent contact with your follower, YOU are breaking the law, and escalating the "following" to a death battle, which, dependent upon the skills and armament of the person you attack, might result in your death.  Both participants in this incident made bad decisions.  I agree with the president that the death was unnecessary.  Of course I agree with your using "whatever means you can to protect yourself", if you have no choice.  In Trayvon's case, he had options.
What I'm not understanding is people's emotional attachment to a verdict in this case in stark contrast to the evidence.  Zimmerman had a legal right, if not a commitment, to report people he did not know acting suspiciously in the neighborhood.  He thought malingering in the rain was suspicious.  He had a right to follow to ascertain the location of the person he'd reported.  He had a right to carry a gun.  Since he'd been responsible for the arrest of several people committing crimes in the neighborhood, that's a reasonable precaution.  He had a right, when attacked, to defend himself.  He had a right, when feeling that his life was threatened, to use deadly force.
The police did not charge him for a reason.  They could not prove he broke any laws, and not for lack of trying.  He willingly gave and passed three lie detector tests.  The timeline supported his story.  His injuries supported his story. Witnesses provided little clarity.  Forensics backed him up.
Only when the media cherry-picked info to create a sensation (deny it?) did the public attach themselves to what they imagined had taken place.  The police chief lost his job and the district attorney were replaced, not for mishandling the case based on evidence, but because a lynch mob wave of public opinion demanded it.
No grand jury decided if the case should have been brought.  The appointed special prosecutor explained after the trial that they knew a conviction would be very difficult, but that they saw their job as making sure George and Trayvon got their day in court.  "We did that."  It's my opinion, for what it's worth, that the trial was staged to get the real evidence in the case to the public in order to dim some of the hype.  And yet here we are, with people who obviously didn't pay attention to the trial still screaming for justice, and racial agendas still being exploited though the case didn't involve any.
      The media duped us pretrial, and most are still allowing it.  The presentation of Trayvon as an innocent child was false. The reasons he was suspended from school were hidden. There is no evidence George is a racist.  Trayvon used the only racist terms in the incident when describing his follower to his girlfriend. George's injuries were ignored.  Voice "experts", willing for the press to testify whose voice was yelling for help, disappeared for the trial.  Partial text was "picked" from the 911 calls to implicate George as a profiler, when he was actually answering questions from the dispatcher about the person he was reporting.  The prosecution's final argument was widely distributed, while the defense barely got any media exposure.
     And now that the verdict is in, all we are seeing is the negative response to it.  Admittedly, I'm not watching FOX or MSNBC, but the mainstream folks and the browser news are mostly still pumping racial tension.  The image I'm seeing a lot reverses the skin color of Trayvon and George (still using that picture of Trayvon from when he was twelve), asking if the outcome would have been different.  And while we can't know, I believe nothing would have changed, except perhaps the amount of attention the case received.
Some black leaders are recommending boycotting Florida because of stand your ground laws, even though that law played no part in the case, and a boycott would hurt the poor and minorities as much (probably more) as Anglos who believe in Stand Your Ground.

Gene Simmons, Tebow, and Links We Hate

      Gene Simmons offered Tim Tebow a job. He knows a valuable brand when he sees one. He suggests "journalists" who persecute Tebow for his faith should be held accountable, as would others who criticize Jews or others based only on faith. Gene is being celebrated for his courage in speaking out. I'll give him credit for taking advantage of a PR opportunity using an obvious stance. 
      Very few people dislike Tim Tebow as a person, as a Christian, or as a competitor on the football field. And he throws a football in the top tenth of a percent of those folks who throw footballs. Unfortunately, that's not good enough to start in the NFL. Time to move on, with a marketer like Gene Simmons if that's what it takes to excel without compromising his (TB) faith and ideals. I've followed Tebow a bit, because he played for the Broncos, and because he's a human interest magnet, but I've never seen a story which persecuted him because he's a Christian, or read any story accusing him of being overbearing or condemning while representing his faith. He seems to preach by example. But then, I didn't search too hard. I'm sure that if you dig, you can find an extreme wingnut to represent ANY point of view that shocks you. Very good livings are made from the reaction to extremists intentionally publishing over-the-top articles in search of publicity. It works. Well intentioned folks share links to posts they abhor, aiming (I believe) for reasonable (similar thinking) people to ridicule and shout the offender down. The trap they enter, of course, is that they are promoting the site with the views they hate.

      An example I laughed about (but couldn't share) was the link to a wacko preacher site suggesting parents promoting family values should not send their daughters to college. Every incensed responder who shared his post was a degreed professional with a feminist perspective, surely learned, or at least promoted, by Women's Studies programs in school. I am one of the views counted on this guy's site due to their vitriol, and I can picture him grinning toothily at the irony.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Did you know that Arizona brand watermelon fruit drink, Skittles, and cough syrup make "Lean", a drug that makes people paranoid and violent?  I didn't.
Did you know that a school would admit that they would list "appropriated" jewelry in a student locker as found property rather than stolen in order to avoid inflated crime stats? I didn't.
Did you know that self defense courses teach that when you are followed, you should call 911 and find the nearest safe place?  And if those options are unavailable, to choose the best place for you to physically confront an attacker, turn your phone video on, yell for help, and, as a last resort, confront verbally before physically?  I didn't, but it makes sense, and might save a life.
Did you know that in legal lingo, the term "pursue" implies an intent to capture, where "follow" inplies no such thing?  That "stalking" is a pattern of repeated behavior?  That's helpful in that using the same terms lets people discuss events more truthfully.
Did you know that ninety five percent of liars are reliably exposed by new polygraph techniques?
Do you know that Stand Your Ground laws have no racial language or implied preference in them?  Perhaps discussion of the laws is warranted, but not based on race.
Have you heard who a boycott of Florida by performers and conventions would harm, and how many dollars might be involved?
Have you seen an interview with the "retired" Sanford police chief?  Seems his story might generate some interest.
Are you aware the extent to which we are all followed, online, by cameras public and private, by car license readers, financial records, and facial recognition devices?  Have you seen any interviews with loss prevention specialists, whether they profile and why, or how they follow safely?  Might make an interesting journalistic foray.
Do you understand why no news groups are approaching these topics? I don't.  Journalism is SUPPOSED to find the truth and expose it.  Where are the journalists? I now know where I can find information marketers.  They duped us, criminally, in the Martin/Zimmerman story.  I'm looking back, searching for a news source that had a reserved, more sceptical less sensational approach.  Maybe BBC?  While boycotting, perhaps we should quit rewarding NBC and the AP For forcefeeding us crap.
A year ago, on this site, I asked people to keep an open mind in this story because the details were sketchy, and folks had a gut-felt reaction to the appearance of a great injustice based on racial profiling, a stand-your-ground justified murder, and police turning a blind eye.  Feelings were running so strong that, just for reserved judgement, I was verbally confronted, even attacked.  Big deal.  I have a life.
But I've watched the events unfold.  And because my vacation time was uncrowded, I streamed and watched the trial.  I tried to consider the evidence as though I were a juror.  And now, I'm having a hard time believing anyone is still asking for Justice for Trayon, based on the trial.  I'm having trouble understanding why anyone is still trumping this killing, the reluctance to arrest, or the verdict as racially motivated.  I looked into SYG, and don't see what the fuss is about there, either.  I feel confident that every logical point accusing Zimmerman has been answered, with several of them not presenting him in the best light, but he's no murderer.
There is a lot of heated discussion.  Logic doesn't play in them much.  But a few points that seem to confuse folks:
(1) Zimmerman was armed because he had been responsible for reporting folks who were subsequently arrested and released.  Understandable.  Zimmerman admits to being a wannabe cop, in that it is/was his chosen profession.  He knew well the limitations of neighborhood watch, and acted accordingly within the law.  An actual cop would have questioned Martin at first contact, and would have deployed his weapon at the first sign of confrontation.
(2) When Zimmerman was asked if he was following the person he reported, the dispatcher told him "We don't need you to do that." That is different than the police ordering him away. With the responders minutes away, he lost sight of the person he had reported.  Attempting to locate is different than pursuing with intent to contact, and grounds for attack.  Comparing Martin's right to self defense to Zimmerman being pummeled is ludicrous.
(3)  There is NO evidence that anything Zimmerman did was racially motivated.  Martin was not on trial, but his words and actions suggest his own racial issues.
(4) The police did not avoid grilling Zimmerman.  Their efforts to implicate him in a crime were amply demonstrated in the trial.  They did not arrest him because his story checked out.  Period.
(5) The appointed special prosecutor tactfully stated that the trial was a response to public pressure by stating their job "was to make sure Martin and Zimmerman got their day in court.  We did that."  I thought that the attorneys for the state actually did a pretty credible job considering they had little but minor inconsistencies and emotion to work with.  Tough job.
And so, I'm embarrassed for those who press ahead with the protests against racism using this case.  I'm sad for those who emotionally reacted to a sound bite and have yet to wake to the facts, in particular those still spewing venom.  I'm shocked at those supporting threats against Zimmerman and his family, proving that violent hate knows no melanin levels. I agree that it's time to have a national talk about race, but this time a two way discussion.
I wrote, when Obama was elected, that I didn't want a president who would feel the need to pander to any special interest groups.  But that is exactly what he and Holder are doing by interjecting themselves into the discussion of this case.  The president was almost apologist in saying that black people see this case through a "racial filter."  He said that Martin could have been him when young.  He described the feeling of being followed in a department store, and watching a lady clutch her purse in an elevator with him.
Well, Mr. President, perhaps it's time for a leader stronger than you to honestly approach the reasons you may have been profiled.  You said very tactfully that "African Americans are disproportionally involved in the judicial system."  The racial filter would interpret that statement as "blacks are unfairly persecuted."  But I believe you understand that blacks are disproportionally criminals.  Department store loss prevention personnel, rewarded for stops and value recovered, will racially profile because it works.  I'm glad you didn't attack when followed.  Zimmerman, while there's no evidence of it, could be justified for profiling Martin based on the skin color of ALL of the thugs involved in crimes he'd reported in his neighborhood.  You, Mr President, are classified as black, while Mr. Zimmerman is conveniently white to his accusers, both of you sharing the same amount of anglo heritage.  There is a VERY good reason that lady clutches her purse, and tries to get away.  Approach the reasons why black society is disproportionately dysfunctional, Mr. President, then whine about profiling with impunity.  I'm not discounting the contribution of black individuals to our culture, wealth, leadership, and progress.   But:

"I'm old enough to remember when most of the people propogating racial hate were white."  Thomas  Sowell

Friday, July 19, 2013


Did anybody here actually look at the evidence in the case?  GZ had authority to watch and report. That's what neighborhood watch does. He was celebrated for reporting past activity, which resulted in arrests.  Hence, he carried a gun.  He saw a person he didn't know and watched, deemed him suspicious, and called the cops.  He followed, though the dispatcher told him, "we don't need you to do that."  He didn't describe the person he was following until asked by the dispatcher.  GZ described being attacked, hurt, yelling for help, and feeling he had no choice but to fire his weapon, only after having his head slammed into the pavement several times.  He called and reported the incident.  He was interrogated, given polygraphs, and released, based on a lack of evidence that he broke any laws.  
Then the media, selling papers and internet views, cherry picked text and photos in a way that portrayed the incident as a race based murder of a profiled innocent child by a white wannabe cop, and people hungering for just such a story jumped on the bandwagon, screaming for justice and the end of oppression.  All the usual race baiters and reactionaries (both sides) weighed in. Sadly, even the president interjected.  Unfortunately, that is as far as many of the most vocal pursued the truth, which was slowly released over the next year and through the trial.  It was a month before we heard of GZ's injuries.  More recent photos of TM were released.  GZ and TM both had past run-ins with authorities, and TM's suspensions from school for theft, drug residue, and violence came to light.  His website pics holding a gun and describing fights were published.  TM's girlfriend described their conversation as containing the only racist term of the incident.  GZ was portrayed as a "wannabe" white cop, which was true in that he did wish to follow that career path, and is as anglo, DNA-wise, as president Obama.  TM was portayed in some circles as an innocent, and others as a wannabe thug.  We'll never know how that would have played out.  
Based on public outcry, GZ was charged, and tried by an appointed special prosecutor.  The jury found what the investigating police did, that there was insufficient evidence to convict, even of manslaughter.  
What did I miss?  That GZ's wife lied about the amount of money in their defense fund? That TM was wearing a hoodie? That on a rainy night, ear witnesses couldn't identify who was yelling, or who was beating who? That forensic evidence and time lines supported nearly every facet of GZ's version of the story?  
I feel badly for the prosecutor who was tasked to stir enough emotion to overcome actual evidence for a conviction, though I thought he did a credible job, while crossing some ethical lines for which he should be accountable.  
Now we're seeing the tweets that threaten Zimmerman's life.  We're seeing celebrity athletes suggest the jury kill themselves.  We're seeing the hate groups and the anti-hate groups ramping all their passion into media events sure to sell like tabloids at Wal-Mart. But the reaction I was most interested in was a website that photo-shopped different colored skin onto the faces of GZ and TM, asking how things would be different.  Now it's my turn to speculate. I believe if Trayvon were white or hispanic, we'd never have heard of this case.  I can't know Zimmerman's mind, but I doubt he would have hesitated reporting a white or hispanic figure the same way he did Trayvon, and I suspect out of fear he'd have shot anybody pummeling him, no matter their race.  I can't see into Trayvon's soul either, and I wonder if he'd have responded differently to a black person following him, instead of a "creepy ass cracker." (his term)  Might he have responded with words, rather than fists? 
One more point.  I keep hearing that Trayvon did nothing wrong to deserve being followed.  The next time you are in your favorite department store, see if you can spot the security guy. They profile, and follow.  You are followed, on cameras everywhere, at your ATM, on-line by marketers and the NSA, by police in patrol cars, and by just plain nosy normal citizens.  It peeves me, too.  But as much as I dislike being watched, I can't punch the guy at Wal Mart.  It's wrong, illegal, and he might be packing. 

I feel badly for the police chief who lost his job for mishandling the case.  Did he?
I feel badly for GZ.  He was not being paid for taking on the liability he did.  He made decisions that put him in a position of risk, and is paying the price.  He will always be looking over his shoulder, because hate knows no melanin level.
I feel badly for Travon, because his own bad decision killed him.  Most of us make immature decisions when we're seventeen, and most of us get the chance to recover from them.  
I feel badly for people of race in America, because the facts and feelings of opression are still so strong that solidarity trumps truth.  Don't get me wrong; there's no denying prejudice exists, profiling is common, economic opportunity is still unbalanced.  But I wonder if personal accountability and community support are more important than divisive rallies and threats of violence. What worked in the past may not be as effective in what most see as a better, if not perfect, world.  I'm still looking for the leader, black or otherwise, who has the wisdom and charisma not to have to pander to any block vote, extreme PAC, or corporation.  
I feel badly for our system of justice, badly damaged by the OJ trial.  After all this time, folks still roll their eyes at any verdict that involves race and press.  Media trials are expensive, divisive, and patently unfair.  The acquitted can be subjected to double jeopardy civil action. Judges and juries can be manipulated by the press.  Public opinion trumps valid jurisprudence.  "Winning" trumps justice. 
I feel badly that people expect a payoff after every incident.  Trayvon's parents lost their child, and no amount of dollars can bring him back.  The homeowner's association "settled" for over a million dollars, probably weighing the cost against litigation.  It could be argued, now that more facts have surfaced, that a troubled teenager was brought into the community, who attacked a legitimate neighborhood representative, resulting in his own death and the devalution of GZ's life and neighborhood properties.  I'm not advocating the parents and girlfriend are liable or guilty of anything, but enriching them sends the wrong message, in my opinion.  It would be different if the HOA were to reach out, offering support with funeral expenses, meeting places, meals, etc. as a gesture of community support for one of their own.  To those who would suggest I'm blaming the victim, I'd offer that there are multiple victims here, and dying in the act of making poor decisions, possibly criminal ones, should not qualify you or your family for a payday.  Settlements like the one paid to Trayvon's parents create more victims, whether the check is written by the HOA, an insurance company, or the government.  We all pay, and perhaps we need to better understand that, no matter the size of the pooled fund, the cost is real, and affects each of us more than we know.  
I feel badly that so many are so willing to act based on what they "feel" must have happened that resulted in the death of Trayvon, instead of what the jury saw and felt they could act upon.  It's true Trayvon is unable to tell his side of the story.  It's also true that the police and the prosecution could not disprove the version told by GZ and the other evidence. That so much emphasis was placed on the street sign and arm placement inconsistencies tells me that actual incriminating evidence did not exist.  The special prosecutor assigned to the case told the real story; "It was our job to make sure that George Zimmerman got his day in court. We did that."  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Before the Verdict

       A year ago, before almost ANY of the facts in the case were known, I asked here if there was any possibility that George Zimmerman acted lawfully and responsibly considering his neighborhood watch duties, had been attacked, and fired his weapon as a last resort.  At the time, all we knew was what the press was promoting, that a black kid had been profiled, stalked, and murdered; and that law enforcement was reluctant to charge the shooter.  My concern was that we as a society are quick to believe and act based on sound bite narrative fed by folks selling internet views and TV ratings.  This story provided all the right emotional buttons to push, and sold like funnel cakes at a diet camp.  Even the Prez jumped in.  For asking folks to keep their passion AND an open mind, I was attacked in print.  
       This was BEFORE we saw pictures of Trayvon that were less than five years old and learned that he was suspended from school for violence and drug problems.  We hadn't seen him on his website with a handgun. We hadn't been shown the broken nose and cuts on the back of GZ's head.  We didn't know that an eyewitness saw TM doing a beatdown on GZ (another didn't).  We weren't aware that GZ passed three lie detector tests when grilled about his version of the events, and responded with relief when cops tried to dupe him by lying that they had videotape.  The truth is, GZ wasn't charged by Sanford police because they didn't have evidence to charge him for actually breaking any laws!
       Complain about the laws that exist if you like, but his weapon was legal, as was the shadowing under the auspices of Neighborhood Watch, and shooting an attacker when feeling your life is threatened is a right protected by statute.  I wonder about the wisdom and liability of carrying a handgun, but if one were involved in a neighborhood watch on properties with frequent criminal activities, and you'd reported several events that ended in arrests, concealed carry might weigh differently for you.  As to the profiling/stalking, we only have GZ's version, but the time lines and evidence support his description, and nothing anyone has come up with comes close to warranting being attacked. To those who doubt GZ thought his life was threatened, I can only suggest that you have probably never been in that situation, or that there is plenty of documentation of deaths occurring without any more in the way of weapons than fists and a concrete curb.
      I've heard some chatter about GW as a "wannabe cop" who was over zealous and over confident because of his perceived authority and the fact he carried a gun.  Could be.  But a jury, and anyone judging without knowing his mind, can't use that presumption.  He admitted to law enforcement as his chosen career path, and using the neighborhood watch as a resume padder.  There is no crime there.
      The issue for the jury now, as I see it, is whether GZ was negligent in putting himself in a position where he might be attacked and have to use his weapon.  Did he NEED to exit his car after reporting a suspicious person?  Did he TRY (or have the opportunity) to defuse the situation by identifying himself as neighborhood watch and make himself less threatening?  Did the life threat he perceived validate pulling the trigger?
      After a special prosecutor was assigned in response to public outcry, second degree murder charges were brought.  GZ opened a website for a legal defense fund, and got a good response.  The government,  seeing an opportunity, raised bail.  GZ's wife lied about their assets (stupid), and a judge was angered.  Irrelevant sideshow, but media gold.
       And now, those of us interested enough to actually look at some evidence and listen to some arguments are left wondering about our legal system once again.  I'm writing before the verdict is announced because it doesn't matter much to me whether there is a conviction on the manslaughter charge.  You can easily argue that GZ made decisions that would land him in jail.  The second degree murder charge was trumped pandering, and the third degree was an act of desperation.  Manslaughter should have been the original charge, and the state should have to prove the crime they charge instead of negotiating and settling after the evidence is presented.  GZ's life has changed whichever direction the jury goes, and an appeals court is likely to toss a guilty verdict anyway when things calm down.  I'll trust the jury to do the best they can with a difficult decision, and assume their motives are pure.

Notes and Lessons Learned:

1: Whether you are a cop, or a security guard, a neighborhood watch, or just a regular citizen who chooses to carry a weapon, understand that a situation may develop in a heartbeat which can change lives, yours included.  Train, prepare, be ready for that day when you are in that place and have to make that split second decision, then be accountable.

2:  If you are a prideful teenager (or immature adult) bent on showing you'll take no crap from anybody by offering or providing a beatdown when you are insulted, disrespected, or feel threatened; understand that the person you attack may actually be trained or equipped to defend themselves.  Your road rage or temper flare may be all it takes to set off a chain of events that gets you killed.

3: We, the people, are easily controlled.  One might think that research and fact checking in the information age might allow a generation of free thinkers and logical decision makers.  Not yet.  More than any recent example, the way the general public responded to the way the media chose to rewrite the story of George and Trayvon exposes how willing we are to ignore facts and possibilities that don't match the story we want emotionally told.  And public opinion, not the courts, not the constitution, is where cases are tried today, and power controlled.

4: Tragically, Trayvon is dead, George's life is ruined, a police chief lost his career for making correct decisions, our judicial system is proving again to be a sham, and our nation is more politically and racially divided than ever.

5:  Speaking of race (notice please, I hadn't), there is no doubt in MY mind that if both of these men had been black, we'd never heard of this case.  Had Trayvon not been portrayed as an innocent black child victim, and Zimmerman a predatory racist, we'd never heard of this case. The president is represented as black, and Zimmerman is white, even though they have the same amount of minority blood, and until we quit using division, guilt, history, and hate to decide court cases in public opinion and in our own minds, there will be no justice, and no progress as a civilization.  No part of this tragedy is relevant to melanin amounts, slavery, gangs, or civil rights.  The only victims are the direct participants in the incident.  If you rushed to judgement when first hearing about this story, and especially if after looking at all of the evidence you are still only emotionally attached to a point of view, perhaps it's time to look at your REAL motivation.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ticket to Ride

        Recently, a young couple was run down by a man driving a red midsized SUV in Anchorage at 5a.m.  The press has everyone looking.  I'm often in Anchorage that early, and lately I've been driving the Jeep.  If I were 5'6" and black, I'd be SO screwed.
       My old rule for motorcycle rides dictated a minimum of 50 ambient degrees.  Sometimes rules just need to get off their high horses and bend.
       Vikki curses traffic engineers who choose roundabouts and different routes than she'd prefer.  "Controlling jerks!" she'll say.  Exactly why they draw a paycheck.
       I'm thinking my motorcycle has plenty of power to pull a little trailer with a canoe. Only the fear of showing up in a "redneck" video is holding me back. A friend says the measure of a man is the number of spark plugs he owns. He has quite a motorcycle collection, several cars, and all the requisite Alaska toys and tools. One of our new guys has a forty year airplane obsession. He says he'll match spark plugs with anyone. Radial engines with multiple cylinders, multiple plugs per cylinder. He wins.

       To my friend who earned a speeding ticket - Shame on you for getting caught, but occasionally the law of averages coincides with the law of the land. I'm fortunate not to have a faster car, straighter roads, or interested police. Do the time.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


       Two chairs facing the fireworks at midnight. A little table with a candle and flowers. The dog we'd thought to comfort but didn't need to, who ignored the booms, but loved the snack tray and the late night hubbub. Folks parked precariously all over the neighborhood, hooting and laughing for their friends. The sky too light for fireworks, too dim for easy navigation. It used to be that ephemeral art like sidewalk chalk, snow sculptures, live music, and fireworks could only exist as memories, but now I can watch the show I just watched online from many angles, reviewed from many perspectives, but I won't, because the show in my memory was more about the love I'm with than the splatters of light over the spruce trees.