Daily Archives: July 30, 2013

July 16 – 23 Rambles

July 16:

I watched some of Rachel Jeantel’s court testimony yesterday.  Yes, she was sometimes hard to understand, but the speech problem was pretty obvious if you were really looking and paying attention.  Her answers were short, and sometimes she was impatient with Don West.  I thought the way he treated her, badgering and asking the same questions over and over, was poor.  His was an obvious effort to confuse her and destroy her credibility in front of a basically all white jury.  It was like watching the cultural divide between black and white in this country, the often total lack of empathy and understanding between the groups.  She sometimes didn’t understand him, and more often he didn’t understand her (or pretended to).  He may have achieved his goal, but I thought his was a pretty disgraceful performance.  Watching Trayvon’s parents cry at her treatment was another painful part I suppose juror B37 just missed.  At one point Mr. Martin just leans over and shakes his head, then his shoulders start to heave.  What torture!  How do we bridge the divide when we don’t even speak the same language or even try to?

I’ve also now seen the Piers Morgan interview.



What a contrast!  Here she’s wearing makeup, her hair done and with a pretty outfit on.  You see the black humor of a good girl who knew her friend very well.  But the language is “black talk” – something white America needs to learn, remembering that a lot of the words and phrases we use in  “white talk” are just as unintelligible to them.  How do we get people to spend some time with each other listening as well as talking, asking questions and learning to understand?

July 20

It amazes me that people are so quick to condemn something they’ve seen on the cover of a magazine or heard about through gossip and feel free to say the most awful things about stuff they know nothing about.  This week’s cover of Rolling Stone is one example.  People just saw that face and went off, or they heard about it and went off.  The other is the President’s remarks yesterday on the Trayvon Martin shooting.  I doubt that many of them actually listened, but off they went making the most outrageously awful, ugly and prejudiced statements on Facebook.  The Media say we’re polarized.  I think there may be more to it than that.  Both the stories are tragedies for Tzarnaev and his family, and for Trayvon’s family.  Are they both victims of the hate that gets thrown around on the internet under a cloak of anonymity?  The remarks about Obama’s speech that I saw had little to do with what he said, it was more about the writer’s hatred for him.  Todd Starnes Facebook page is an education in right wing nasty looniness.  I must be living in some other country where people try to reach across divides and understand each other no matter what their differences.  This is what Todd Starnes said that began the discussion:

 President Obama is now our Race-Baiter in Chief. His remarks today on the Trayvon Martin tragedy are beyond reprehensible. Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” he said. He actually said the outcome might have been different if Trayvon had been white.

Folks – we have reached a very dangerous point in this nation when the president of the united states begins to question the judicial system.”

That’s a deliberate misinterpretation of what the President said.  He questioned the validity of one particular law, not the entire judicial system.

A kind of “balance” can be had it you also check out Newshounds.  At least it’s somewhat better written and more understandable than Starnes’ site. (Why do I read this stuff, anyway?)  It’s hard to know what the folks on Starnes’ site actually believe.  What would they say if confronted in person about their words?  Quite possibly, like the crowds of Obama haters at their rallies.

From Clipboard

July 21:

Another Rolling Stone article that shows the appalling effects of confrontations between people when gun carrying is permitted, especially confrontations between races and folks of different ages.  Why does an older white guy pull a gun on a carful of black teenagers whose music, he thinks, is too loud?  Would the result have been the same had the carful of teens been white?

Politifact Florida has some interesting data on murders that have to do with this.  And here’s another link to some interesting information on the same site.

July 23:

Zimmerman is said to have helped the family in a car crash.  It’s reported in various places on the internet.  Is no one skeptical of this report besides me?  The responding officers have reported this, but we’ve heard nothing from the family involved.  Z was supposedly with another man & both helped.  Is this related in any way to the guy here in Ohio who’s raising money so Z can replace his gun?  Somehow, the story of this “rescue” doesn’t fit with the portrait of Z that came out in the trial.  I can see him standing by and watching as his friend really helps pull people out of the overturned van, but I can’t see him physically participating.  It doesn’t fit with the pudgy, flabby, out of shape guy we saw at the trial.  Is it media manipulation to restore a better image?  Again, we don’t have enough details to be sure – and that’s a problem all by itself.  No amateur video.  That’s a surprise.  No video from the police.  Could it be that his buddies in the police department are trying to clear his name by making some sort of “hero” out of him?

The story is reported on CBS news, Foxx News, and USA Today, but I have seen it nowhere else.  I’m still suspicious, even though it also turned up at the LATimes .  There are no pictures of him at the scene, though CBS says the “rescued” family identified him.  George has friends on the Seminole County police department who reported the incident.  They might have an interest in the rehabilitation of his reputation.  Why did the rescued couple cancel the interview they were supposed to give?  Knowing what we know about what happened in the missing Sunil Tripathi case, and the way the media works these days, I’m going to hang on to my doubts.

July 1 – July 15 Rambles

Hey, I’m catching up!

July 1:

I’m not sure the US understands democracy any better than those in the Middle East who crack down with their militaries on populations demanding better treatment.  George Bush left many poisonous programs behind when he left office, and unfortunately, those who were held over by Obama have persuaded him of the same paranoia about terrorism – that safety comes before anything and everything, including the Constitution.  Government lawyers have justified anything as we learned in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, in the name of “national security”, when many of us thought that with Obama the abuses would stop.  Some did, but the worst ones, as revealed by Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald and the British newspaper the Guardian, just kept growing and growing until they encompassed everyone in the world with an internet connection.  Our government seems to be seeing terrorists behind every event no matter how small, even threatening journalists for doing their jobs or writing books, while creeping ever more steadily to the authoritarian corporate state where everything they do is considered a “state secret”.

As I read it, the Constitution does not charge the President with keeping the nation “safe”.  Congress is enjoined to provide only for the defense of the nation, not it’s complete safety from all harm.  Such a concept of “safety” is a logical impossibility, and those who demanded it after 9/11 have done more to harm our constitutional rights and our republican form of government than anything since our beginnings.  George W. & Co were terrified by what happened on 9/11 (as they were meant to be). Their reaction was one of panic and vengeance that has led us to where we are today, cowering behind wholesale snooping of friend and enemy alike, standing in endless lines to undergo ridiculous searches just to board an airplane, looking suspiciously at anyone with a different way of dressing, or of a different skin color.  The fear promoted throughout the country has led to a whole slew of unrelated abuses in the service of a moral rigidity that is anything but inclusive.  States are depriving children and families of support for their nutrition and education.  They are depriving women of access to adequate healthcare.  The elderly are being deprived of meals and services.  Innocent people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere are being killed by missiles from the air directed by pilotless drones.  All in the name of keeping a certain class of US society “safe” and comfortably secure in their belief that they know what’s best for all of us.  Everything our governments  have done has made us less safe, and that includes states as well as the federal government.

It should be enough to defend the territory of the US without the pseudo-macho actions involved in “taking the fight to them”.  Have we gained anything from the blood spilled and the dollars spent? Only the corporations who made the militarization possible have gained.

George W’s invasion of Iraq may have had some influence on the Arab Spring.  It certainly stirred up the religious sectarian fight now going in in both Syria and Iraq.  The Bush administration also began the wholesale secret data mining program at NSA.  Some of the original abuses were eased by finally using the intermediate step of the FISA court, but as the tools grew better and better the temptation to go wholesale on the gathering of data in the present government atmosphere of paranoia must have become too strong to resist.  Secret programs always have this tendency in the US, but inevitably the abuses leak out.  The people of the NSA would have done well to read Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes, on the sorry history of the CIA.  My question is, how is this huge mass of data ever going to be useful to anyone?  By the time it can be filtered and analyzed, it must surely be too late to prevent much of anything from happening, regardless of what people have said about how “useful” the program has been in stopping attacks.  I’m not sure that we really have the tools to sort through vast data banks of bits in that kind of timely manner.  The FBI had information about the 9/11 hijackers that was never passed on to anyone who could use it, and no one connected the dots on the Tsarnaevs.  Since the proliferation of contractors and analysts, who is going to be able to read and evaluate their reports, especially considering the Republican effort to shrink government?  When contractors may have their own axes to grind such as staying in business, how trustworthy can their reports possibly be?

As far as I can tell, Edward Snowden has not released anything that directly harms the United States no matter what the politicians in Washington may be yelling.  He has embarrassed the government plenty, which also explains the over the top blacklash, but like the Wikileaks revelations which caused acute embarrassment, I don’t see the harm.  You can tell me all you want about super “secret tool” that can do all these marvels of spycraft, but I say “show me”, and have no need to believe on faith.

I can’t imagine that such a massive data mining program could not have been known or suspected by both our friends and enemies.  Osama bin Laden had already stopped using the internet to transmit his messages, but used trusted human messengers instead.  Surely this information has spread among all but the most isolated of islamist groups.  They aren’t stupid, and they use the internet for their own purposes.  Yet our officials act like little boys with their hands caught in the cookie jar, and than blame the messenger for their own foolishness.  Secrets and democratic practice do not mix.

Senator Diane Feinstein, according to the NYT, is a staunch supporter of the NSA data mining program, and thinks that Snowden is a traitor.  “I feel I have an obligation to do everything I can to keep this country safe,” she said.  Senator Feinstein, with all due respect, you’re wrong.  The “safety” you intend is not worth having at such a high price as our 4th Amendment Rights.  I’m not even sure that it’s safety at all.  It certainly didn’t protect the Boston marathoners from the Tsarnaev brothers.  Even though it is already too late to do anything about it, I don’t much like living in a country where the government and all the techno industrial complex spy on the rest of us.  Just because it goes on and “everybody does it” does not make it right.  It gives me the creeps when I see the last item I looked at on some site turn up as an ad on all the other sites I visit, and I wonder how much information has been collected about me because I write this blog which is so often critical of the government and its politicians.  We humans often seem to think that if only if we build walls high enough, buy enough policemen, surveillance cameras, fancy weapons systems, and trip alarms we will be safe inside our gated communities from the marauding hordes.  I don’t know that such a program has ever worked in history for very long.  Even the Chinese couldn’t keep out the “barbarians” forever.  The impulse to police the entire world, falls prey to the failure to see the devils within and the impossibility of knowing anyone else completely.  Besides, those “marauding hordes” are us.


Trayvon Martin (July 15, 2013)


He’s dead.  The trial is over.  George Zimmerman is free to walk the streets if he dares.  A travesty of justice has been delivered because of badly written overly broad laws allowing something called self defense, and a system of justice that often is expected to prove the impossible.

This is what we know.  George saw Martin. Thought he was up to no good.  Left his car and followed the boy.  Somehow a fight got started, but we don’t know who started it.  We don’t know what was said, either.  Somehow George ended up with some scratches and a broken nose, and Trayvon ended with a bullet in his heart.  George gets away with murder.

When is America going to come to its senses?  Too many guns; too much fear and too much hate.

I hope someone helps Trayvon’s parents sue in civil court for wrongful death.  That may be the only avenue that will cause George Zimmerman to end up in jail.

June Ramble

It seems as if every Muslim leader, when confronted with popular upheaval is prone to crack the whip instead of seeking compromise.  Even Turkey’s democratic leader Erdogan has refused to budge on his plan to bulldoze Taksim park.  Maliki hasn’t listened to the peaceful protests of Sunnis in Iraq, but gone after them with guns instead.  Assad wouldn’t talk to the peaceful protesters in Damascus and earned himself a civil war and a destroyed country.  Mubarak wouldn’t talk to the protesters either, nor would the leaders of Tunisia and Libya.  Their countries are all in various stages of coming apart.  Is this reaction the traditional one of the Muslim leader at any level, including fathers?  Or is this something that just affects the dictators?  Why do Muslim leaders all seem to become authoritarian while proclaiming democracy?  Is there something about the way they raise their sons that gives them a dictatorial bent?  Would leaders who are women be the same?  Is the seduction of power so great even when there are riots in the streets?

Morsi in Egypt has followed the same pattern.  Escalating without talking, and the results have been ugly.

(Note added in July:  Morsi’s inability to govern in a way that made the lives of people better, his inability to get the military or the bureaucracy on his side doomed his rule.  An election does not establish democracy.  Others now have the awesome job of avoiding mob rule and the disintegradion of Egypt.)

Who’s to say the same won’t happen here?  How would Republicans react to huge demonstrations in the street?  Law & Order crackdown?  No concessions?  Our government has already inched in this direction under Obama.  Washington doesn’t seem to be  listening to the real concerns of people about jobs and health care, inequality and fairness, black and white issues and food security.  It wouldn’t take much of a push for conservatives to justify martial law and the imposition of authoritarianism.  We’ve already given away so much in search of that non-existent “safety”.