Monday, April 30, 2012

Tom Coburn, Robert Bacharach and the Missing Blue Slip

A very long time ago U.S. Senator Tom Coburn and I shared space on the playground at Longfellow Elementary School in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The last time I saw him he was in the 6th grade and I was in the 3rd. He moved on to West Jr. High the following year and my family moved to Oklahoma City. Only two incidents remain fixed in my mind from those bright days filled with hard packed dirt and guys wearing blue jeans with the hems of the legs rolled up into large cuffs. Both involved fights. First I got into it with a classmate of his and despite the age difference we squared off. Coburn chided the guy for picking on a third grader. The second, Coburn himself ended up in a fight and on the losing end. What I remember most is him being held down by the other kid who spit in his face. Coburn told him, over and over, "I'm not scared of you." A teacher came out and everyone scattered. I have no idea how the dispute turned out.

I say these things to indicate that while I disagree with just about everything Tom Coburn says and does I've always respected his integrity and honesty. Unlike, Jim Inhofe, who I consider a ruthless and opportunistic beast, he has, or rather had, always seemed to at least consider other points of view with respect.

Now, fast forward a couple decades to Oklahoma City. Around thirty five years ago I met and became friends with the family of  U.S. Magistrate Robert E. Bacharach. The Bacharachs were friendly, highly intelligent and creative. Bob's brother Phil is a journalist of note around here and ended up being a spokesman for a governor or two. His sister, Shaina is a registered nurse, who after some soul searching became a rabbi.

Because Oklahoma really is a small place, these two disparate stories have just intersected. Three months ago, President Barak Obama nominated Robert Bacharach to a vacant seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A story in today's Oklahoman by Chris Casteel points out that Coburn has so far refused to sign off on that nomination and another for John Dowdell to a federal judgeship in Tulsa.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has a quaint tradition of not holding a hearing for a judicial nominee until both home state senators give their approval. Bacharach's qualifications are impeccable. He has, according to Casteel, received the highest possible rating by the American Bar Association and has been vetted by the Justice Department. He has handled more than 3,000 civil and criminal cases. Even the crazed Inhofe gave his go ahead on the nomination  more than a month ago.

So, Tom, what is the problem?

According to the article Coburn's office issued a statement saying "Per regular order, Dr. Coburn will return the blue slip (an approval) once the committee review of Judge Bacharach and Mr. Dowdell's nomination materials is complete. These are lifetime appointments; thus, the Senate has a duty to conduct a careful review of the nominations before proceeding. Blah, blah, blah."

Right, well according to a spokeswoman for Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, they are waiting on Coburn. "The committee will not begin to consider scheduling a hearing on the nominee until both blue slips are returned."

Catch 22. Coburn says he is waiting on the committee, the committee says it is waiting on Coburn.

The seat in question has been vacant for two years and statements by Coburn indicate he wants it filled as quickly as possible. Those statements are starting to look a tad on the fictitious side. Coburn is after all an evangelical conservative republican. His periodic homages to civility aside this is an election year and the Presidency is up for grabs. If he sits on the nomination and Obama loses, his man Mitt Romney gets to make the appointment. One can only assume that if that happens Coburn's approval of the new nominee, no matter what his or her qualifications are, will be so fast it will make heads spin.

So much for the conservatives whining about judicial appointments being too political in nature. Quoting the constitution looks great in front of the tea party mobs, but in reality that dusty old document just gets in the way every now and then. In a pinch one shouldn't take it too seriously.

Of course there is another explanation. An even darker one than Coburn simply maneuvering on behalf of his party. Bacharach is Jewish. Most evangelical Christians are in whole hearted support of Israel and the people who live there. However they don't really have much use for American Jews. They are mostly democrats, many support policies that are an anathema to evangelicals and, of course, the bottom line is they won't accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. They simply refuse to rush to the rail at the altar call all teary eyed.

Obama, a liberal, nominates a Jew to a lifetime on the federal bench. It is a seat one step below the United States Supreme Court. One can imagine the alarm bells going off in Coburn's suddenly fevered brain. Robert Bacharach is a man not to be trusted no matter how great his qualifications. Despite Tom Coburn's medical degree and all his experiences, that innate Oklahoma small town suspicion of those different from you kicks in.

Obviously he is enough of a politician to do everything he can to sound reasonable while acting just the opposite. Hypocrisy is a fine art form, best practiced by those who can at least have some semblance of sincerity. And if recent history teaches us anything it is that Tom Coburn  can act as sincere as any human life form on the planet.

He never had my vote, but I always grudgingly liked Senator Coburn. At least until today. Unfortunately this morning, after all these years, I think I've finally caught a whiff of why the other kid spit on him. I don't blame him either. Given the same opportunity now, I believe I would too.


4-30-12           

Friday, April 27, 2012

George Zimmerman, PayPal, and the Price of Justice

You can really go through a lot of money on a case like this with the intensity of it.
Mark O'Mara, Attorney at Law, currently representing George Zimmerman



Yes, in America we pride ourselves on the phrase, "and justice for all." Of course if you have a large bank balance you tend to get a little more justice than those who don't. Those high power, high profile, lawyers don't come cheap. O'Mara estimates George Zimmerman's defense costs could reach the million dollar mark.

So how does one come up with that sort of cash? It is easier than you think. You simply start your own web site and beg for it. That is what Zimmerman's wife and brother did before he turned himself in to face charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Apparently the site included pictures, quotes, and a page asking for donations through PayPal. According to O'Mara he has taken the site down, but not before it raked in $204,000. Well that is the amount everyone is admitting to anyway.

O'Mara claims he knew nothing of the site, despite the fact Zimmerman's wife mentioned it to the judge in last weeks bond hearing. At that time she said she didn't know how much money had been collected and testified that her brother in law was the real moving force behind it. O'Mara insists he really didn't know the money was out there when he spoke during the bond hearing and was shocked, shocked, when Zimmerman asked him what to do with his PayPal accounts. In a CNN interview O'Mara said he asked Zimmerman what he was talking about.

It might well be just a merry mix up, but now that he is aware of the largess, O'Mara has taken control of it. I mean he is, after all, a lawyer. He claims the money has been put into a trust that neither his client, or family can directly access. Obviously the man isn't working pro bono on this one.

The prosecution reacted predictably. It asked Judge Kenneth Lester to raise Zimmerman's bond at once. Lester says he wants to know more about the money and will consider a decision at a later date.

The Martin family, through their lawyer (everyone has one now days) are demanding that Zimmerman's bond not be raised, but rather revoked entirely. In a CNN interview Benjamin Crump said, "They tried to portray themselves as indigent, that they didn't have any money. We think the court should revoke his bond immediately and he should be held accountable for misleading the court."

Zimmerman is currently out, somewhere, on $150,000 bail. His family put up $15,000 cash to a bondsman, a ten percent fee, which is pretty much the standard in the industry. If the former neighborhood watch captain decides to take flight the bond company is on the hook for the $150 grand. That is where guys like Dog the Bounty Hunter come in, but that is another story.

There is no telling where this is going next, or what new revelations will come to light. God only knows what sort of mass marketing beasts  have contacted both the Martins and the Zimmermans looking for licenses to sell everything from tee shirts to coffee mugs with names and photos on them. The next step will be the distribution of hand held pennants for people to wave in the court room as the trial proceeds.

I do sort of like the idea of the web site though. I might set one up for myself. "Send a Love Gift to Brother Sid and all your sins will be forgiven by me personally. That is right, for only a small fee you too can walk free and in grace."

I'd do it, but I'm sure someone has all ready beaten me to the punch. George Zimmerman certainly did.

Free enterprise and American justice. Who can top that duo?

4-27-12  

   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Singing to Anders

According to both Reuters and MSNBC the Norwegians came out by the thousands today. They filled Youngstorget Square in Oslo and gathered simultaneously in other towns across the nation. They carried roses and wept. They sang the song, "Children of the Rainbow." Reportedly it is the Norwegian version of Pete Seeger's 1971 tune, "My Rainbow Race." The lyrics celebrate tolerance and multi culturalism. They speak about a seamless mix of different ethnic groups living in peace together.

Ahh, idealism. I once knew it well.

Despite the presence of Anders Breivik in their midst that noble dream apparently hasn't died the horrible death in Norway. An estimated 40,000 people were singing this particular song because Breivik, who murdered 77 innocent people last year, hates it. He claims it is nothing more than Marxist propaganda meant to brainwash the nation's youth into accepting the creeping take over of Europe and Norway by Islam. He has yet to explain how Marxism, which condemns all religion, has become so tolerant of the Muslim faith. But then logic many times escapes those who have come to the conclusion that killing innocent people is the right thing to do.

Breivik is utterly unapologetic for his brutality. In fact he seems completely proud of it, calling those he killed traitors. He finds it insulting that the court is even considering declaring him insane. He insists his mental capacity is completely undiminished by his xenophobia. He is, in his mind anyway, possibly the only rational person in Norway.

His victims are testifying now. Reuters reports that government employee, Harold Foesker took the stand and testified that the bomb cost him 80% of his eye sight and that his face had to be restored. At the same time Foesker said that he is proud to live in a country that treats criminal defendants with dignity. There is a man who can turn the other rebuilt cheek.

After Tim McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City local residents drove around town for days with car lights on during the daytime. We continued to do so until the last body part was removed from the rubble. I suppose it was our way of singing, "Children of the Rainbow." Of course we then made damn sure McVeigh was shot up with enough poison that he ceased to exist.

Dignity is, like so much else on this blue ball, a relative thing.

The Norwegians are overwhelmingly stunned by Breivik's insanity and gruesome crime. They are desperately trying to cling to their ideals and that beautiful self portrait of their society they hold so dear. I admire them for it sometimes and at others think of them  as incredibly naive. I have this terrible suspicion they have now become cynics in training. I hope I'm wrong. It is nice to think somewhere in this world fairy tales actually do exist.

There are so few of them left that, quite frankly, most of us have forgotten the words.

4-26-12

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Oklahoma Republicans On the Hot Seat

Here in Oklahoma things have gotten sticky for republican legislators. At question is Oklahoma state senate bill 1433, which among other things declares that a person exists within a woman's womb the very second a sperm fertilizes an egg.

The Christian Imams are clamoring for its passage in the state house, but for reasons unsaid the republican majority is reluctant to do so. It has shelved the bill and wants to let it die this session. This decision has enraged the evangelicals and catholic clergy, along with an outfit known as Parenthood USA. Parenthood is one of those right wing organizations, much like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which writes bills promoting their agenda and then hands them off to arch conservative hacks from places like Hollis, Oklahoma. You know, people who have been elected to office, but are too stupid to come up with their own ideas or legislation.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to read the bill, because to do so you need software I don't possess. It is obvious, however, that something is terribly wrong with the way it is written. We aren't talking about New York and Massachusetts republicans here. We are talking about yahoos who go out and shoot their dinners. These are the same people who will tell you, quite seriously, that if you support Barak Obama you are a communist sonofabitch. No, the only reason this thing hasn't gone to the floor and passed is that it is flawed beyond redemption and even the conservative clods who hold the majority in the state house recognize it as such.

The Tulsa World quotes Oklahoma Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice co president, Kelly Jennings as saying, "Only attorneys who litigate all the law suits arising from this ridiculous legislation will benefit." That gives us a hint as to how helter skelter the wording must be.

Other organizations and supporters are shrilly denying the legislation will cause in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and even contraception to become illegal. Their denials are so desperate that it makes one think that is exactly what could happen if the bill passes. Other issues may have to do with, oh yes, money.

As my wife pointed out the other day, "If I get pregnant in October, I should be able to declare the fetus as a dependent on January's taxes, even though the baby isn't born yet." Indeed, if Oklahoma has declared the fetus a person and obviously it is dependent on the mother, how can the state deny the deduction before birth. Tax breaks for preggos everywhere! Then once you give them the tax break the parents should be able to take out life insurance on the unborn. After all it is a legal dependent and a "person." And, if the worst happens and the "person" dies during birth, or  even before? Well then the carrier, owes the mother, or parents what might be fantastic sums  of cash  because someone who was never born in the first place has passed away. I love it when I think like a lawyer. It is a muddled mess and only those who aren't going to be responsible for the fall out don't see it that way. No wonder even Oklahoma republicans are edgy about the whole proposal.

The only thing certain now is that the people pushing this bill are stooping to threats not usually seen outside of mafia social clubs. Personhood USA has said that governor Mary Fallon should use her influence to get the measure heard and "avoid a share of the blame". More darkly, the group threatened to report any house member who blocks the effort to bring the bill to the floor as being for abortion rights. Big Joe McCarthy was a rank amateur compared to these grinders.

A spokeswoman for the Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma contends that her denomination has "been failed by the very people who are here because of our votes and our campaign dollars." Priests are in the gallery praying and the halls of the capital are filled with protestant ministers adorned in pastel colored sports jackets. They have the necks of bull frogs and their saccharine smiles are offset by their steely glares. Mass excommunications will begin soon. Heresy trials are sure to follow as wooden stakes are planted just south of the capital in anticipation of witch burnings.

The republicans sold their souls to these monsters and now the piper has come to be paid. It is the blackest of comedies and only people like me are laughing. Well, at least for now. I won't be once this bill passes. And it will pass, if not this session then the next.

Years ago a Southern Baptist preacher asked me what denomination I belonged to. I told him I was an Episcopalian. There was a long pause, then he finally said, "Well, that's all right." He then went off into a little sermonette clarifying that it was okay for me to be an Episcopalian so long as I believed pretty much exactly what Southern Baptists believe.

And there you have it. The only problem is that now they are trying to turn that philosophy into state law. You either follow the tenets of their church or you do hard time. So much for that whole separation of church and state deal.

Next stop, mandatory state sponsored prayers in public schools.

Bet on it.

4-25-12

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From Saunders To Martin: One Hundred Posts About the Big Parade

I cranked out the first post of this blog on November 2nd,  2011. It had to do with the savage murder of Carina Saunders and the shooting death of her former classmate Kelsey Bransby. Now, five plus months and ninety-nine posts later some of the people who may, or may not have dismembered Saunders are in the Oklahoma  County jail. None of them seem any closer to trial than the moon is to the earth. Bransby has been largely forgotten, except by her family and friends. The investigation and media coverage of her killing was minimal at best from the very beginning and for all practical purposes stopped by Thanksgiving of last year.

Shortly there after former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky was arrested in connection with multiple incidents of child molestation. Very quickly it became apparent he'd been running amok for years and the powers that be at Penn State had been turning a blind eye to it all. I suppose they were hoping against hope that his behavior would some how turn out to be not true, or, naively, stop all on its own. His fall precipitated the fall of Joe Paterno, who was up until that moment, one of the most revered figures in all of American college football. Sandusky, who has a home patio that overlooks an elementary school playground, has yet to be brought into court and maintains his complete innocence.

The body of Alina Fitzpatrick was then found in far east Oklahoma City. She was nude, covered with bruises and abrasions, and had a paper like gag stuffed in her mouth. The medical examiner came to the conclusion her death was probably caused by an overwhelming amount of meth in her body and listed it as suspicious. After a while the police said they were keeping an "open file," but not investigating it as a homicide. Then they clarified themselves by saying the investigation was on going into the circumstances of her death. To this date there have been no arrests and once again the local media appears to have forgotten she ever existed.

Then came that gruesome circus known as the republican primary season. Never have so many grossly incompetent people spent such extravagant amounts of money campaigning for an office they were utterly unqualified for. The field was so breathtakingly grotesque that for a while there was even a dalliance with a Donald Trump candidacy. The names charged in and then fell out like some dreadful roll call of right wing hacks. Bachman, Perry, the sex mad pizza magnate Herman Cain and Huntsman. Then finally there was the closet racist Ron Paul, the serial philanderer Newt Gingrich, and the anti contraception fanatic Rick Santorum. All of them wild eyed bumblers who exposed the far right of the republican party as a dangerously stupid lunatic fringe bent on nothing more than making all the rest of us be good. The whole fetid bunch eventually succumbed to Mitt Romney who will be the nominee. Not that the republicans really wanted Romney. In fact if they had found anyone who could put together two coherent sentences at one sitting, Romney would currently be writing the memoir of his second failed run at the presidency.

There were other things during these first hundred posts. Whimsical things like people on Fox News accusing the muppets of socialism and some clown in the Indiana legislature claiming that the Girl Scouts of America promotes abortions, homosexuality, and encourages sex. Then there was the guy who claimed Dick Nixon and Bebe Rebozo had a flaming gay relationship. It was and is an image so mind shattering and awful that just talking about it might turn some of us to stone.

There was of course the, pardon the pun, aborted effort by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to cut the funding of Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screening program. It was a move so intensely unpopular that it took the Komen people all of about three days to reverse themselves and remove some of those responsible for it. For just an instant there was Joseph Kony, the baddest of the bad in Africa, but he is a long way away and the guy who started that fad went severely off his nut in the most public way.  

And now the focus is on Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. The first trial of the century in the twenty-first century is looming somewhere in the near future. Zimmerman is out on bail and Martin is still dead. He was shot because he was young, black, had a hood on, and was scared enough to run from an unidentified man as he tried to get back to where he was staying. Zimmerman claims he was simply defending himself from the kid he was chasing. The feeding frenzy is unlike anything since O.J. Simpson went into the dock. There will be a final outcome, but whatever it is huge portions of the public will be outraged. Large numbers of people will not do the right thing.

Sonny and Cher once sang, "the beat goes on." I prefer to think of it as The Big Parade. It never ends, well at least not until that fantastically huge asteroid slams into us. It is for now an ageless montage of all that is us. All that is good and evil. All that is brilliant and horribly stupid. In this new era of social media and world wide instant information we have never been so connected, yet had our differences so dramatically exposed. We have never been as well informed and mis-informed. We have never been exposed to such a flood of data. The deluge challenges us to the point of meltdown. We ultimately are human and we choose to believe what we want to believe despite all evidence to the contrary. It is the nature of the beast.

May God save the Internet and may God damn it also.

In everything there is duality.

4-24-12

                

Friday, April 20, 2012

Anders Breivik and Tim McVeigh: The Oklahoma City Connection

The first shot was extremely difficult.
Anders Breivik



Yes, but then it got easier and easier. Breivik is the Norwegian berserker who killed a total of 77 of his countrymen last year in a bombing and shooting spree the likes of which the Scandinavian country hasn't seen since World War II.

First he built a bomb that killed eight and then took a ferry out to Utoya Island where the Norwegian Labor Party was hosting a youth summer camp. By the time it was over another 69 were dead. According to Mr. Breivik he thought about wearing a swastika on his chest, but then decided not to because he didn't want people to think he was a nazi. Of course not. We wouldn't want others to think bad of us, would we. After all appearances are everything. Instead of wearing the swastika he dressed in a police uniform, luring several of his victims out of hiding by saying he was there to help, then shooting them.

We are assured by him he isn't a nazi, but he does claim to belong to an anti Muslim, "Knights Templar" organization. The only time he has shown emotion during the trial was when the court played a propaganda video he had made that railed against Islam. As far as I know none of the 77 people he killed were Muslim. They were, in his eyes, however race traitors. He claims he shouted, "You will die today Marxists." What Marxism and Marxists have to do with Islam is still a bit vague, but one can't worry about details when looking at the big picture.

In perhaps the most chilling moment he went all present tense in his testimony. "Some of them are completely paralyzed. They cannot run. They stand totally still. This is something they never show on TV. It is very strange," he said. There is no mention if he had an erection while uttering these words, but I'd put my money on it. Beasts like these don't have sex the same way the rest of us do.

In Oklahoma City yesterday there was a memorial service to commemorate those lost in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. On the 19th of April, 1995 Tim McVeigh pulled a rental truck up to the front of the building and walked away from it while wearing ear plugs. He didn't want the noise of the explosion to impair his hearing. When the truck blew it killed 168 people and wounded 600. Some of those who died were babies and children who were in a child care center. As the service was being held, Anders Breivik was testifying he studied the Oklahoma City bombing closely and drew inspiration from it.

He also took to heart the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and from all places, al-Qaida. Despite his supposed hatred of Islam he finds al-Qaida a shining example of revolutionary force. In fact he claims one of his aims was to create a European version of it. If there is a strong taste of irony there it is probably because guys like Breivik not only don't have sex like the rest of us, they don't think like we do. Make no mistake about it, this guy is as deranged as they come. When they strap him into the "are you rabidly crazy psycho meter" the needle goes straight to the top.

One official diagnosis is that he is nuts another says he is sane. It is good to know psychiatrists everywhere can never agree on anything when it comes mental health issues.

Breivik himself says he either wants to be executed, or set free. Well we know the second option is off the table and it appears the first is also. The Norwegians haven't executed anyone since their post nazi liberation days. I'm sure many of them are hoping for an exception to that rule right now, but the feeling here is that Mr. Breivik is going away for the maximum of 21 years. At the end of that term he will, hopefully, still be considered dangerous and they will remand him for the rest of his unnatural life. You never know though. A couple of decades down the line some shrink is liable to decide that, yes, he went a little funny in the head once, but he is all better now. Psychiatrists and lawyers are gruesome brotherhoods.

As for now the trial continues and all of Norway is aghast at a monster they never dreamed they could produce. It just goes to show that no country is immune from deadly insanity.

In the United States we look at all this and in the back of our minds there is this nagging thought. If a Norwegian is capable of this, what sort of  American Grendel is plotting a brutal outrage right here, right now. After all we have a long history of this sort of thing and we're better armed. While Norway may have only one Breivik, we have scads and scads of McVeighs.

Who says western civilization isn't great? It all makes that extended stay in Belize look good. Yes indeed, take cover in the jungle where the only thing to worry about is the occasional jaguar. At least they never kill more than they can eat.

4-20-12

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ted Nugent, Political and Constitutional Scholar

According to the eminent political scientist and jurist, Ted Nugent, the president of the United States, the vice president and Hillary Clinton are criminals. He was speaking at the NRA national convention in St. Louis  which of course means he was doing nothing more than preaching to the choir. National Rifle Association conventioneers don't really represent the diverse nature of the American republic. Although if you're a white guy who is scared that if the government takes away your gun you won't be able to have sex with your wife you will generally fit in.

Mr. Nugent didn't specify which crimes the president has committed. In fact he failed to cite any charges at all. It could well be he considers Obama's most serious offense to be that one about not believing exactly what Ted Nugent does. I've run into this before. You are either with them or you are a traitor. Anyone who isn't a conservative can't be a patriot or a true American.

It is all hysterical horse shit of course, much of it based on race as much as politics, although none of them will ever admit that in public. As the white power structure shrinks and their grip on control continues to slip the shriller and more hateful they become. The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that some clown on Facebook posted a poll the other day. The question? Should Obama be killed?. Your choices of answers were, yes, maybe, if he cuts my health care (my personal favorite, since the president is for universal health care) and finally no. Over seven hundred people responded before the wonks at Facebook took the poll down. The results were not made available. The "pollster" apparently has been identified, but his or her name has not been released to the public.

Earlier this month a census worker in Kentucky was found hanging from a tree, the word, "Fed" written across his chest. I mention this just because some of these psychotic beasts take this sort of stuff to heart and act on their dark urges. By all reports the militia movement is growing once more as paranoia sets in and the possibility of four more years of Barak Obama grows. At some point one or more of them will commit some sort of brutal act. The nation will then recoil from them just as it did after Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols murdered a bunch of babies in a day care center in Oklahoma City.

But, back to our pal The Motor City Madman. Other Nugent bon mots noted that four of the supreme court justices hate the constitution and America. That if Obama is re-elected Nugent would either be dead or in jail by this time next year. That one can be interpreted in a couple of different ways I suppose. Either Nugent is going to attempt to assassinate the president and expects to be killed or caught during the act. Or, the current administration will consider him a dire enough threat that he must be dealt with in some conspiratorial fashion. Trust me Ted, if the Nixon thugs didn't get rid of Hunter Thompson you're safe. The White House only reacted now because it is an election year. The truth is. once assured of another term the Obama people are going to clump you right into that same group that includes the birthers. That would be the group too stupid to even sneeze at. In other words your self perceived political influence is as over rated as your music.

The secret service is supposed to interview Nugent tomorrow or the next day, if they can pull themselves away from the Colombian hookers long enough. They probably won't grill him about the previously mentioned statements. They might ask him about his final analogy though. The one where he said, "If a coyote comes into your living room and pisses on your couch its not the coyote's fault. Its your fault for not shooting him." That one gets pretty close to the line. Even Mitt recognized it and put a little distance between the campaign and rock and roll Nugent style.

Although I've never threatened to shoot any metaphor for any president in my living room, I can, on a level, understand Nugent's anger. In many ways I feel exactly the same way about republicans and conservatives as he does about democrats and liberals. We both have that intractable feeling the other side is going to cripple the nation. Our outrage over it is our common bond. He is the enemy and he is in many ways me.

Maybe we should sit down and have a beer sometime. Actually that is a great idea. After all we are both fans of chef and professional snark, Anthony Bourdain. We'll all bring our guns and compare barrel lengths. It'll be a real guy's night out. Email me, Ted, or give me a call. I'll keep my calender clear just for you, buddy.

Until then, rock on dude and always remember, without guys like you there wouldn't be guys like me.

4-18-12
   


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O'Mara's Opening Gambit and Why The Sane Will Flee From Jury Duty

The legal maneuvering has all ready begun in the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case. Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara has formally asked Judge Jessica Recksiedler to recuse herself from the case because of a possible conflict of interest. To a lay person such as myself, O'Mara's reasoning seems a bit tenuous, but then lawyers always seem tenuous. It is, I suppose, why so many of them become successful politicians.

Here is the tale of the tape. Recksiedler's husband works at the same law firm as does attorney Mark NeJame. Mark NeJame was asked by George Zimmerman to be his counsel. NeJame turned Zimmerman down and recommended he give Mark O'Mara a call. In addition NeJame is under contract to CNN to provide analysis of the Zimmerman trial.

Ok, I don't get it either, but the smart money says that Recksiedler does drop off the case. Number one I can't imagine her or anyone else who lives in Sanford wanting anything to do with this billowing nightmare. Number two, if there is even the most infinitesimal possibility that O'Mara could get a conviction overturned on appeal because of her "conflict of interest," it is better to give him his way now. The idea of a second trial because of something as stupid and utterly legalese bull shit as this is too painful to even contemplate. It would be like throwing out all the charges because some clerk misspelled Zimmerman's name on the warrant.

Meanwhile Reuters is reporting that the Zim man's neighbors are saying the day after the shooting he was wearing bandages on his nose and head. The Rueters report goes on to gravely state that this would seem to support Zimmerman's side of the story.

Actually it doesn't, but why ruin a good tid bit of controversy. The fact is there was a struggle. Everyone knows that. What has yet to be determined is who was the aggressor and was George Zimmerman justified in using deadly force.

In a related story, Florida defense attorney Jose Baez was quoted as saying, "No way in the world I think this case could be heard in Sanford." Baez knows a thing or two about getting a completely unsympathetic defendant off the hook. He is the lawyer who got Casey Anthony out of the courtroom and onto Facebook.

The awful truth is they could hold this trial on the moon and it would be tough to find twelve Americans honest and true who don't all ready have an opinion regarding Zimmerman's guilt or innocence. Beyond that it simply might be tough to find twelve people anywhere in the country who will want to serve on this jury. I mean ask yourself, would you want to help decide the case one way or the other, then have your name become public and therefore available to every news person and Masked Avenger wanna be in the republic?

I didn't think so. In fact there will probably be otherwise normal human beings show up for the selection process drooling heavily while dressed in only boxer shorts and torn tee shirts. Others will rant about an invasion of banana people and their eyes being eaten by potato bugs. Indeed, there will be no depths to which people won't sink so they will not have to be anywhere near the courthouse during this trial.

A bond hearing is scheduled for next Friday, but nothing is written in stone, especially if Recksiedler takes herself off the case.

The grim circus is only beginning. Don't hold your breath for it to end any time soon.

4-17-12


Monday, April 16, 2012

The Titanic and Anders Breivik

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic in the north Atlantic. I was going to write about it Sunday, focusing on the frailty of human life and our collective hubris when it comes to technology. I think I was going to throw in some things about the forces of nature and fate also. The whole essay was meant to be a reflection on the human experience in the face of tragedy.

The more I thought about it though the less interesting the idea became. Despite new theories about lunar gravity increasing the number of bergs in the shipping lanes and a mysterious haze on the horizon the disaster came down to one thing. The captain screwed the pooch. That is unless you believe movie maker James Cameron's version of that night. Cameron laid  the whole thing in the laps of the two look outs in crow's nest. They were happily watching Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio play pitty pat on the deck instead of doing their job. Ultimately of course the ship sideswiped an iceberg. There weren't enough lifeboats because no one dreamed the thing would actually sink. So, a bunch of really rich people and even more not so rich people either drowned or froze to death as they floated in the frigid waters. End of story.

Hey, shit happens.

Just ask them in Norway. Last July a guy named Anders Breivik set off a bomb in the middle of the capital, Oslo, killing 8. He did this in order to delay meaningful police response to his real "mission." The wiley Breivik dressed a a cop and then after the bomb went off he traveled to an island in the middle of a lake. A political party was holding a youth summer camp there. When Breivik went ashore he opened fire on anyone and everyone. By the time he was done 69 more people, many of them, if not most, teens and pre teens were dead.

He went on trial today. In a move so perfectly human in nature he admitted to killing them all, but said he was innocent. He claims he was defending Norway from the twin curses of multi culturalism and Islam. As he stood in the dock he told the panel of judges, "I do not recognize the Norwegian courts. You have received your mandate from political parties that support multi culturalism. I do not recognize the authority of the court." In Oklahoma we recognize this type of statement as a variation of  the McVeigh theory of  government.

Unfortunately for brother Breivik the court does recognize its authority as does just about everyone else in Norway. The good news for him is that they are really not as blood thirsty there as we are here. Right now they have only two options. First, find him insane and lock him away in an asylum for an unspecified amount of time. Or they can find him sane and put him away for the maximum which is a mere 21 years. That works out to a couple of months  per murder. Luckily for Norwegians everywhere if the authorities still deem him dangerous at the end of his sentence they can continue to hold him indefinitely. And there you have the difference between American and Scandinavian justice. We can't hold someone beyond his sentence just because we think he might be dangerous. However, we can slip him the hot shot, like we did with ol' Tim and be done with it.

I have no idea what these two things have to do with each other. I don't know if there were any Norwegians on the Titanic. There certainly weren't any survivors of the Titanic either in Oslo or on that island.

Maybe I'm just worn out on presidential politics and neighborhood watch captains for the moment. Maybe I'm simply impressed that people have been wildly incompetent and brutally evil no matter what the age or continent. Hell, I may just like thinking about Kate Winslet playing pitty pat.

The only things certain right now is that, one, it is Monday, two, we know the Big Parade never ends. and three, I will forever be in debt to the English for inventing the gin and tonic.

Sic Transit Gloria.

4-16-12





   


Friday, April 13, 2012

Trayvon's Mom and The New Trial of the Century

It didn't take long for Trayvon Martin's mother to retract, or at least restate what she said yesterday morning. In an interview she was quoted as saying that she thought her son's shooting was an accident, that things simply went out of control and if George Zimmerman could, he'd turn back the clock.

By the afternoon she was saying that her statement was "mis-characterized" by the media and others.

She released this as the buzz grew: "We believe George Zimmerman stalked my son and murdered him in cold blood. The accident I was referring to was the fact that George Zimmerman and my son ever crossed paths. It was an accidental encounter. If George Zimmerman hadn't gotten out of his vehicle this entire incident wouldn't have happened. My son was profiled and murdered by George Zimmerman and there was nothing accidental about that."

She might have also just read the affidavit filed in court by the prosecution. In part it says that just before the shooting Zimmerman complained to police dispatch that, "these assholes, they always get away." He also referred to Trayvon Martin and kids like him as "fucking punks."

Special prosecutor Angela Corey is going for the maximum and if convicted Mr. Zimmerman could spend the rest of his life manufacturing license plates at some Florida correctional facility.

Of course we are just at the start of what will be a very long haul. That whole speedy trial thing went out the window years ago.

There are all ready rumors that Zimmerman's attorney wants a new judge because of a conflict of interest. Then of course there are bond hearings, arraignments, and that evidentiary hearing where the Zim man will claim he is immune from prosecution under the Florida stand your ground statutes. And finally there could be a motion for a change of venue, although it will be hard to find twelve people anywhere in the U.S. who don't already have an opinion on this whole ghastly affair.

Most legal experts agree that Zimmerman will need to take the stand in his own behalf. Since there weren't any witnesses there isn't anyone else who can testify that his life was being threatened by Trayvon Martin.

The attorneys on both sides and whoever the judge ends up being are going to be picked apart by media analysts. The coverage will rival the O.J. Simpson circus. One can only hope the jurist running the show will be a tad more competent than Lance Ito was.

It is a new century and now we have a new trial of the century. Expect TV sets in bars nation wide to be glued to the action. Advertisers are probably lining up as I type. It is an American drama and everyone will want a piece of the action.

Somewhere during it all  maybe justice will actually be served. We can always hope.

4-13-12

         

Thursday, April 12, 2012

George's Bad Week

It has not been a good week for George Zimmerman. The man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin is currently sitting in a Florida lockup charged with second degree murder. The two lawyers who were representing him quit, saying he had stopped contacting them, but had started making calls to the special prosecutor's office and that champion of civil liberties Sean Hannity. The attorneys, Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig. hinted not so subtly that Zimmerman was suffering a mental melt down. Of course they had never even met their "client". Their only contact with him had been over the phone and through text messages.

Zimmerman's new attorney of record is one Mark O'Mara who is described in the media as "a seasoned defense lawyer." He has said his client will plead not guilty. Well, no surprise there. Unless special prosecutor Angela Corey knows something none of the rest of us know it will be exceedingly tough to prove the charges she brought in the case.

As criminal defense attorney Richard Hornsby explained to MSNBC, to get the current charges to stick the prosecution will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman, "engaged in an intentional act of ill will, hatred, or spite."

Even Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton isn't willing to go that far. In an interview she said she thinks the shooting was an accident. In her words, "I believe it was an accident, I believe that it just got out of control and he couldn't turn the clock back."

The current thinking is that Zimmerman's first line of defense will be to invoke the Florida stand your ground law. He will maintain he was attacked by Martin, felt his life was in danger and exercised his legal right to defend himself with deadly force.

There will be an evidentiary hearing first where Zimmerman will offer that argument not to a jury, but a judge. If the judge finds in his favor, our man George walks. The defense has a problem though. It was very clear in the 911 tapes that the "captain" of the neighborhood watch was at least following Martin, if not outright chasing him. That Zimmerman ignored the instructions by Sanford dispatch to cease the pursuit. Mr. O'Mara will have to show that against all logic Trayvon Martin went from fleeing an unidentified man, to being an aggressive attacker.

No, this thing is going to trial. It might be that Corey ramped up the charges because she has some forensic evidence no one else knows about. Cynics will claim she is simply playing to the crowd. Knowing that is exactly what some are thinking she issued a statement that said, "We did not come to this decision lightly. We do not prosecute by public pressure, or by petition." The personal feeling is that she went for the maximum hoping to force Zimmerman into a plea bargain. She is asking for murder two, but will take man slaughter.

One thing is certain, it is going to be nigh impossible to find an impartial jury one way or the other. Even a change of venue to say Outer Mongolia might not make the nut. Hung juries, multiple trials, and endless appeals seem in the immediate future if Corey doesn't have more than it appears she does.

Tragically this open wound isn't healing any time soon. One can only hope the infection doesn't spread.

4-12-12                        

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The White Flag Goes Up, Santorum Quits

The folks at the Boston Globe figured it right. Rick Santorum gave up the ghost before the people in his home state of Pennsylvania could vote for or against him.  As of today Santorum suspended his campaign and while Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are still technically in the race the surrender effectively hands Romney the nomination. Not that the Mitt wasn't going to win it anyway, but it does end the day to day grind of a savage in house fight that caused his campaign to hemorrhage money and prevented him from focusing on Barak Obama.

Now Romney can kick back and breathe easy. His people can concentrate on the vice presidential vetting process. He can start gearing those ugly attack ads straight at the president. Over the next few months he will probably spend  more money on TV time than the Anheuser Busch brewery and General Motors combined. Why not? It isn't like he is going to run short of cash. Every fat cat republican in the world is going to be on the phone to him pledging untold millions to super pacs that either exist right now, or will tomorrow. There are a lot of deep pockets in the GOP and everyone of them will want to buy a piece of the candidate. After all, what good is it to have your man in the white house if he doesn't owe you something?

Santorum's decision also allows Romney to edge back toward the center during the next few weeks. It won't be sudden and it will be subtle. However the truth is he has to begin playing to the independents and those republicans living in the swing states. The pitch now has to start appealing to those who are uncomfortable with all the wild eyed tea party, born again Christian, burn Washington to the ground, rhetoric. The Aryan Brotherhood wing of the party might scream like banshees when he does, but unless Paul goes all Gotterdammerung and runs as an independent this fall, Romney is going to get their votes anyway. They don't like the Mitt. They loathe the president.

So what has come to pass is what everyone expected to happen back in those cold dark days before the Iowa caucuses. Romney is the republican's man. The road had a lot more twists and turns and was quite a bit longer than anyone thought it would be. And the brutal truth is if there had been anyone at all in the GOP who didn't either have a sordid past, or been able to not put their foot in their mouth every five minutes, Mitt would have gone down in flames. But, that person simply didn't exist. In the end the Mittster didn't really win the nomination, he just managed not to lose it.

He isn't what a lot of them wanted, but they are stuck with him now. Never have so many been so reluctant, but so compelled to jump on a bandwagon. The sign is lit and it reads, "Immediate Seating Available. All aboard for the ride." Many will come, but few will smile.

4-10-12          

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reality Sucks for Newt; Mitt, Omnia Vincit

It would appear Newt Gingrich has finally seen the hand writing on the wall. Or, at least he has finally admitted in public what he has probably known for weeks now. In an interview this weekend he said Mitt Romney "is far and away the most likely republican nominee."

On Fox News Sunday Gingrich said he'd back Romney in the general election. He explained, despite months of charges to the contrary, that, "He (Romney) is conservative enough. I suspect he will accept a solid conservative platform, but he does have consultants who are of the Etch a Sketch tradition."

Newt's campaign, while not officially over, is awash in a sea of red ink, proving that the conservative mantra of fiscal responsibility is at best relative to the moment and the situation. Yes, deficit spending is evil when someone else is doing it, but there are certain personal exceptions. Do as I say, not as I do and all that.

His explanation for this disastrous defeat on the national level revolves around money. Mr. Gingrich says he badly underestimated Romney's ability to raise funds. "I was totally prepared to be out spent 2 to 1, or even 3 to 1. But when you are up to 5 or 6 to 1 you're being drowned. "

What he failed to mention was that there were tens of millions of people who simply thought he was not the guy. His own party's leadership hates his guts. Untold numbers of women and men alike consider him to have the loyalty of a rented snake. That is what cheating on and then divorcing two wives who had contracted critical diseases will do for you.

Newt can play the good soldier now and promise his support to Romney, but the fact is Romney doesn't need it and it is possible he doesn't want it. Gingrich can plan on spending the rest of his days writing books only conservative hacks will read and picking up a few bucks on the lecture trail. His days of real political clout are gone forever. The most he can possibly hope for from a Romney administration is an ambassadorship to someplace like Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile Rick Santorum is doing a desperate imitation of Davey Crockett on the walls of the Alamo, swinging his rifle butt at overwhelming battalions of assault troops. Polls in Pennsylvania show him either leading by 4 points, or trailing by just as many. Romney, knowing this could well be the kill shot, is spending nearly $3 million there as I type.

The Boston Globe has even speculated that Santorum might drop out before the April 24th primary to save himself the embarrassment of losing his home state. I doubt that happens. Santorum has never shown any reluctance to embarrass himself. In fact he might even like it.

If we have learned anything during this process it is that scads of money will over come petty issues such as a complete lack of political conviction. Well, that and the republican field was full of utterly unacceptable and incompetent fools. People who their own party faithful found so distasteful that they voted for a guy they would have really preferred to avoid.

Once more the golden rule of American politics has held sway. He who has the gold rules.

Mitt, Omnia Vincit.

4-9-12

             

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trayvon Martin and the Great Divide: ALEC Takes a Hit

Well here we are in the second decade of the twenty-first century and the more things change, tragically the more they stay the same.

The Christian Science Monitor along with an outfit known as Techno Metrica Market Intelligence took a poll recently. They wanted to know what people think about the shooting death of young Trayvon Martin and neighborhood watch "captain", George Zimmerman.

As everyone on the planet should know by now, on a drizzly night weeks ago Martin was walking back to a Florida condo he was visiting. Zimmerman, who was carrying a nine millimeter hand gun, decided he looked suspicious and began to follow him. By the time it was over, Martin who was unarmed, was dead. Zimmerman claims self defense and is pleading he did nothing more than exercise the Florida "stand your ground" statutes. These are laws that allow people like him to kill just about anyone and everyone at their discretion.

The poll paints a picture of a nation so divided that it sucks all the hope right out of a room. Apparently we will never come together on the issues of race and the perception of equal treatment by the justice system.

According to the results 73% of blacks and hispanics believe race played a major roll in the shooting. Only 36% of whites do. When broken down further, 66% of younger people believe race was a motivation and 43% of middle aged people do. 48% of lower income respondents think race was a factor as opposed to 39% of those describing themselves as in an upper income bracket. It even breaks down along political lines. 64% percent of democrats polled think race was involved while only 32% of republicans do.

Of the black people polled, 72% think George Zimmerman is guilty of a crime. Only 32% of non blacks think the same thing.

The poll also indicates that African Americans and democrats are following the story more closely than republicans. And in fact whites and republicans believe there is too much coverage of it. In other words, ignore it and it will go away.

Then there is the final and most depressing conclusion. Minorities and younger people believe a grave injustice was done. The older white crowd believes  professional agitators are stirring up the masses in order to railroad Zimmerman for purely political purposes.

And there you have it once more. The great white denial. Racism is dead and black leaders are cynical political opportunists when they say it isn't. As long as we say we aren't racists then we can't be. However, keep the gun handy just in case some black kid in a hoodie comes walking past. After all you can never be too careful.

If there is one upside to all of this it is that the American Legislative Exchange Council has taken a hit. ALEC as it is known is a non-profit right wing advocacy group founded by brothers Charles and David Koch. The institute is funded primarily by giant corporations. It writes "model" laws which it hands over to state legislators who are in their pocket and too stupid to come up with their own bills. The legislators then tweak the language of the bill, making it state specific and hiding the participation of ALEC in its authorship. ALEC likes to come up with laws that do things such as restrict voter registration. And, in case you were wondering, they were the force behind the "stand your ground" legislation in Florida.

Since the shit hit the fan in the Martin shooting, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and Pepsico have all pulled out of the organization. Hey, even black people eat cheese and drink sodas. It would never do to get identified with an outfit that could cost you a major segment of your market.

Sometimes I think we are on a treadmill in this country. We want to look like we are running from our past, but in reality we don't want to go anyplace.  New ground, a different world truly scares us. If we don't admit to that poisonous little corner deep in our brain it can't really exist. We are all innocent until at times like these we prove ourselves to be horribly guilty.

4-7-12  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maybe Ryan

The first name being bandied about as a running mate for Mitt Romney is Paul Davis Ryan, republican congressman from Wisconsin. He is also the author of the republican budget plan that was recently shot down in the U.S. senate.

He was born in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1970 and although his father was a lawyer he has that sort of working class back ground that Mitt Romney is so painfully lacking. He actually knows what it is like to scrounge for a living. His father, like his grandfather and great grandfather died in his fifties of a heart attack. He used the social security benefits from his father's death to pay for his college tuition. While in school at Miami of Ohio he even did a turn behind the wheel of the Oscar Meyer wienermobile. When he first hit Washington he waited tables for a while and worked as a trainer at a local gym. When Romney speaks about blue collar roots everyone in the crowd knows he is spewing utter B.S. But this guy, Paul Ryan actually walked the walk for a while. It is a connection Mr. Mitt needs.

While not an evangelical, Ryan is a practicing Roman Catholic and as we've seen the evangelicals will take a Roman Catholic over a Mormon every day of the week. It also puts him firmly on the anti choice side of the aisle, something that warms the cold cockles of every arch conservative heart in the land.

Most importantly, however Ryan is from Wisconsin and the Mitt desperately needs a place like Wisconsin to go red in November. Ryan first won his seat in 1998 with 57% of the vote. His lowest vote percentage since then has been 63%. Two years ago he won with 68%. Those are land slide numbers.

He also seems to have a modicum of an economic plan. Something else Romney lacks, or at least will commit to. Of course the plan is typical republican trickle down nonsense, but at least it is out there and has solid form. It is a double edged sword. Romney will have a running mate who actually has taken a stand on something, unlike himself. However the down side is that it gives Obama a clear point of attack. And attack he will.

Economist Paul Krugman points out the Ryan plan will raise taxes on 95% of the public, but will cause a four trillion dollar revenue loss over ten years because of tax cuts for the rich and corporations. In fact the plan calls for, among other things, the elimination of all corporate income tax. It also seeks to dismantle medicare as we know it. It would seem you can find a republican who actually used to work, but never one who can remember what it was like. Or at least one who isn't owned by some body's board of directors.

If there is a a glitch in this seemingly bright idea about Ryan it is that he not only voted for the Wall St. rescue, but also the bailouts of GM and Chrysler. Romney first opposed the auto industry life rafts and then, in typical Mitt style, took credit for them. Those votes will not endear the congressman to the tea party brown shirts. They demand all their people to be untainted by even the slightest hint of liberal, or centrist genetic makeup.

Of course that ultimately takes the tea party bullies back to the final question all of the far right must ask itself this November. Who do I hate more? That answer is always going to be Barak Obama.

Paul Ryan will have to survive a vetting process that will be so invasive and far reaching that by the time it is over the Romney people will know at the exact date he stopped wearing diapers. The Palin disaster is still too fresh. So there are no done deals right now. 

Paul Ryan seems like the right fit for our pal, Mitt, but don't start printing up the bumper stickers just yet. Everyone has a skeleton or two and there is still a long way to go.

4-5-12  
     

 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Future of Santorum and Politics American Style

The republican voters in Maryland, Wisconsin and Washington D.C. have spoken and they confirmed what everyone already knew, or should have known. Mitt Romney will win the GOP nomination for president of the United States.

Rick Santorum has not won in a state where less than 50% of the voters identify themselves to be evangelical Christians. Even in his home state of Pennsylvania his lead over Romney is a bare six points. The numbers game has finally caught up to him.

So, what does he do now? Even a win in Pennsylvania simply delays the inevitable. Does our boy Rick stay in, or does he gracefully concede and let the Mitt concentrate on Barak Obama and a VP selection?

If he stays in he cannot continue to burn bridges between himself and the eventual nominee. He has to play positive toward Romney and become the good GOP soldier and concentrate on Obama. Continuing the vitriolic civil war will doom him within the party if he has any aspirations on a national level in the future. No, it is time for Mr. Santorum to start thinking about 2016. He has national recognition now and among the arch conservative wing of the party he has credibility.

If he can hold his tongue and Romney loses to Obama he will become a big time player four years from now. If Romney wins in November and Santorum has seemed graceful in this defeat he can count on some sort of cabinet spot and in eight years be primed for another run.

He can't demand the vice president spot because first, he isn't in a position to do so and second, Romney doesn't need him to carry those southern states. Mitt needs swing states, the very places Santorum has failed so miserably in. The south will take care of itself for the republicans. They have to have places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Indiana.

Gingrich and Paul are done on the national level for all time. Santorum is the only loser left in this field who has a future, but he has to handle himself just right, or he'll find himself just as forgotten as those two bitter old fools in four years.

So, as Holmes would say, the game is afoot.

Romney will scream big government, Obama will counter by pointing to the republican fealty to the corporate robber barons and the very rich. Everyone will shout class warfare. Everyone will spend more money than a drunken lottery winner. I'll man up and put the Obama bumper sticker on the car, which will cause untold numbers of strangers to flip me off. At some grocery store parking lot someone will tear it off and if history repeats itself they'll spit all over my front seat and steering wheel. If the vote count is a close shave in any state the losing side will charge fraud and given the absolute polarization and extreme animosity between the two parties they might end up being right. By the time it is all over half of us will be patriots and the other half traitors.

Who says America isn't great?

4-4-12

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Obama Vs. Romney

And the race is on. Earlier today Barak Obama delivered a speech at an Associated Press luncheon and he left no doubt about who he believes his opponent will be. He went full bore after both the proposed republican budget plan and Mitt Romney.

He described the plan, that was developed by Paul Ryan, as so radical that, "It makes the contract with America look like the new deal." He then linked it to Romney saying that the former Massachusetts governor had called the budget "marvelous."

The president also invoked the name of the that mythical conservative god, Ronald Reagan. He pointed out that even Reagan knew that when the deficit was spiraling out of control, which it did constantly during the great communicator's presidency, that you had to couple spending cuts with tax hikes. He pointed out that the republicans have gone so far off into never never land that even Reagan couldn't win a primary in this election season. Frighteningly, that notion is not an over statement.

Yes, this is going to be a no holds barred campaign that will illustrate perfectly the ever widening divide between the conservative wing of the republicans and the middle and left of the country.

In calling the republican budget a "Trojan horse," Obama has opened up a theme he will not doubt hammer right up  until the sixth of November. The republicans will scream deficit, but their idea of budget reduction is to put the screws to the lower and middle classes, the very people who can least afford it. That trickle down doesn't work, has never worked and will never work. As he explained it, true growth doesn't come down from the rich, it comes from the heart of the middle class.

His problem will be to get people to believe it. The republican propaganda machine is well oiled, ruthless and has all the money in the world. The right knows that no matter how outlandish the lie, if it is repeated enough on television, in print, and on the web it will stick. Before it is over Obama will be blamed for Amelia Earhart's disappearance, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Russians getting nuclear weapons, and the breakup of the Beatles. His handling of the economy has not been perfect, but given the disaster he inherited, it at least has been credible. The right wing wags and hacks will describe his policies as some sort of communist plot.

Of course the republicans have problems too. The economy is slowly improving from a melt down greater than anything seen since the depression. If that improvement continues the cold hard fact will be that they created the disaster, but now want the American public to hand a healing patient back over to them. In other words, "Yeah, we slipped you the poison, but trust us now." Hopefully the voters will see through that cynical ruse.

November seems so far distant that any thing can happen between now and then. Two things are sure however. It will be Obama vs. Romney. And it will get ugly.

4-3-12 

              

Monday, April 2, 2012

George Zimmerman and The Experts; Desperation, Assumptions and The Lone Ranger Syndrome

George Zimmerman says this is what happened on that rainy night in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated, condominium community. He was following Trayvon Martin because he seemed suspicious. That Martin began to run and although he had been cautioned not to follow him by Sanford 911 he did just that. Zimmerman maintains that he lost the hooded figure and began to walk back to his vehicle. Suddenly out of the night loomed Trayvon Martin who then initiated a confrontation. He says that the six foot one inch, 140 pound Martin decked him with one punch then began to pound the back of his head against the pavement. Zimmerman says he repeatedly yelled for help, but none was forthcoming. The attack ceased only when the captain of the watch took the Florida "Stand your ground" statutes to heart and shot Martin to death.

He does not offer an explanation for why Martin, who was admittedly running from him, suddenly turned into the pursuer and aggressor.

Police have released tape of a 911 call made by an unidentified resident of the condo community. In it you can clearly hear someone yelling for help. The pleas cease abruptly with a very loud and distinct gun shot. The person who was screaming sounds young, but then I'm no expert.

Unfortunately for Mr. Zimmerman a couple of other people who have listened to the same tape are. Both have reached the conclusion that it wasn't his voice that was calling for help.

The Orlando Sentinel has reported that Ed Primeau, a Michigan audio engineer and forensics expert used audio enhancement and human analysis to come to this conclusion. I have no idea what human analysis entails. It sounds a little vague. However Tom Owen, owner of, Owen Forensic Services and chair emeritus of the American Board of Recorded Evidence comes to the same conclusion. Using computer software called Voice Biometrics that Owen claims is better than 99% accurate he says the results returned a 48% match with Zimmerman's voice. Given the quality of the audio and samples of Zimmerman's voice the match should have been over 90%. To quote Owen, "The tests conclude that it is not the voice of Mr. Zimmerman." He also added that he can't say whether or not it was Martin, because he had no sample of the young man's voice to compare it to.

Of course Zimmerman and Martin were the only ones  involved in this horrid scene and since Martin was the only one shot it doesn't take a great leap of faith to believe it is him you hear.

The more that you look at this incident the uglier it gets. According to the New York Times, late last summer Zimmerman organized the neighborhood watch because of a string of burglaries in the struggling housing addition. The Sanford police came out and told a meeting of residents that the watch should be their eyes and ears. To observe and report. They were told that they had no police authority and shouldn't carry weapons. But, as we now know, just about anyone in Florida can carry a piece and they can use them with apparent impunity.

The article paints a picture of Zimmerman as a seemingly decent guy, but one obsessed with law enforcement and a frequent caller to the Sanford 911 center. In other words a cop wanna be.  In the 911 tape of Zimmerman's call before the shooting he asks if they (the police) are sending someone out, then complains that "these guys always get away."

A quick glance at an on line property advertisement for The Retreat at Twin Lakes shows a tan colored, two story condo with dark brown and white trim The listing says it is 1295 square feet and has three bed rooms and two and a half baths. It brags about a community pool and in that breathless sort of enthusiasm all such ads have, it claims it is "close to shopping malls and much more." The place rents for $1195 a month with a year's lease.

It doesn't mention that  the reason many of the condos are up for rent is that there has been a rash of foreclosures. That the purchase price for units when they were initially built was around $250,000 and in today's market they are worth barely half that.  It also doesn't mention that in 2011 there were seven reported burglaries and even though it was "gated" the residents perceived a growing problem with strangers wandering through the complex. And darkly as, Retreat at Twin Lakes home owner, Frank Taaffe was quoted as saying, "They were Trayvon-like dudes with their pants down."  

What you see is a picture of a place sliding slowly down hill and the home owners feeling trapped, desperate, and finally besieged. Enter George Zimmerman, benevolent protector, armed and ready to defend life and property. The only things missing from his wardrobe were a mask and a native American sidekick.

Given all the circumstances it seems inevitable that some kid was going to get shot. Unfortunately for Trayvon Martin he is the one who drew the short straw.

That, of course, doesn't make it right. Zimmerman made assumptions based on race and appearance. Assumptions echoed by Frank Taaffe. They aren't the only ones out there. There are tens of millions who make the same assumptions for the same reasons. It is a disease that eats at our society like a cancer.  Sadly, it is one that we seem to have no cure for.

In the final analysis Trayvon Martin was killed not because of what he did, or even might do, but because of who he was and what he was wearing.

Shame on George Zimmerman and shame on all of us for allowing this vicious lunacy to continue.

4-2-12