Archive for March, 2012

First, I want to be as fair as possible as I write this.  I believe the media, as they are apt to do these days, is doing more story-telling than pure reporting, and may well be misleading in order to fit a predefined narrative.  Trayvon was probably not a perfect little saint.  He was not the kid that he was in most of the pictures we are seeing (these pictures are a younger Trayvon).  He was on 5-day suspension from school.  Of course, this is not to say he’s bad either.  Just that he’s not perfect.  Like all of us, he is flawed.  But like most of us, from all accounts he is decent.

George Zimmerman is probably not pure evil reincarnated either.  He wanted to be a cop.  True, it seems he was overzealous in that pursuit.  But digging deeper to find articles, his neighbors didn’t seem to mind.  In fact, they seem to pretty much view him as an asset toward keeping their neighborhood safe.  A black friend of his as come forward to say he is not a racist.  And what originally sounded like perhaps a racial slur on the 9-1-1 tape was revealed to actually be “punks” by an expert.  Of course, this is not to say he’s perfect either.  He (unlike Trayvon) had been arrested previously (battery of an officer and resisting arrest) and also his former wife filed a restraining order against him.  He calls 9-1-1 a LOT, it apparently does not take much for someone to appear suspicious to him.  So definitely flawed.  But probably more decent than not.

That said, this incident should have never happened.  The moment Zimmerman says on the 9-1-1 call “yes” in response to the 9-1-1 operator’s question asking if he was following Trayvon, this became clearly wrong.  That’s when it is clear that Zimmerman crossed an ethical line between concerned (if not also paranoid) citizen to a man getting involved in somebody else’s business without justification.  He had already called 9-1-1, there was no good reason to do anything further (it’s not a crime to “look suspicious” and no one has ever been hurt by how somebody looked).  He should have gone about his day, then Trayvon would have gone home to watch the rest of the NBA All-Star game and George will go on to continue trying to be a police man.  Unfortunately that didn’t happen and we have a senseless death.

But ethically wrong and legally wrong is not always the same thing.  It is not clear whether what Zimmerman did was legally wrong due to what is known as the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida.  In most states, you have a legal duty to retreat when possible before being legally clear to use lethal force in self-defense (unless you are inside your home).  Clearly Zimmerman could have avoided this situation if he had retreated.  However, some states have reduced or eliminated this duty to retreat, and in Florida you pretty much have no duty to retreat whatsoever.  As wrong as it may seem, Zimmerman may not have been in violation of the law.

I was not a fan of “Stand Your Ground” laws even before this incident.  There just seem to be too much of a potential to use this defense as a loophole around murder.  This is such a scenario, where really all you have Zimmerman’s side of the story.  You may have a witness who saw some of it.  But really you only have the full story from Zimmerman.  I think Trayvon would have had a different view of Zimmerman’s self-defense claim, but we will never hear that side with him being dead and all.  Who knows what happened?  I mean, Trayvon may have been punching Zimmerman just has he said, but couldn’t he have ALSO just been “standing his ground”?  Or maybe Trayvon just got pissed off that this Hispanic guy just wouldn’t leave him alone.  But regardless, had Zimmerman just retreated in the first place, no one gets hurt, that I am convinced of.

I really think “Stand Your Ground” laws need to be looked at again.  Don’t we want to encourage the avoidance of confrontations?  Don’t we want to discourage vigilante justice?  Doesn’t everyone deserve due process?  Does this law increase the likelihood that misunderstandings lead to violent consequences?  Did Zimmerman know that he had no duty to retreat under Florida law and did that impact his decision to follow Trayvon?  Is that what we really want for our society?

I also think the police was much too willing to accept George Zimmerman’s version of events.  They seem to just wanted to get the case wrapped up with as little effort as possible.  When somebody is shot, the police have an extra responsibility to be thorough in my opinion.  It’s not like the dead person can advocate for him/herself, so the police need to do so.  It looks like instead the police just check the angles from Zimmerman’s perspective (a good example is they tested Trayvon for drugs but did not do the same for Zimmerman).  That’s certainly easier, but it’s not justice.

I hope some form of justice can come out of this.  But I fear that with Florida’s very broad allowance for “self-defense” (there is even a provision that allows for “self-defense” when you were the one who provoked the other person to use force in the first place, how can that be right?) combined with the lack of eyewitnesses plus the initial local police’s willingness just to buy Zimmerman’s story without much scrutiny may make prosecution of this case very tough.

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I recently read an article by CNN/Time columnist Fareed Zakaria arguing why we shouldn’t start a “pre-emptive” war against Iran.  You should read the whole thing: Another War In The Middle East?: Why Israel And the U.S. Must Not Launch A Preventive Strike Against Iran , but here’s an excerpt:

What if Iran does manage to develop a couple of crude nukes in several years? Obama says a nuclear Iran would set off an arms race in the Middle East. But a nuclear North Korea has not led the two countries directly threatened by its weapons—South Korea and Japan—to go nuclear. Saudi Arabia and Egypt did not go nuclear in response to Israel’s developing a large and robust arsenal of nuclear weapons. After all, Egypt has gone to war with Israel three times. By contrast, it has not been in a conflict with Iran. Were the U.S. to provide security guarantees to Iran’s neighbors, as Hillary Clinton has proposed, it is highly unlikely that any of them would go nuclear.

Obama has explained that a nuclear Iran would be a problem like India and Pakistan with their nuclear weapons. But India and Pakistan went to war three times in 30 years before they had nuclear weapons. Since they went nuclear, they have been restrained and have not fought a war in 40 years. That case shows the stabilizing, not destabilizing, effects of deterrence. If Israel genuinely believes that deterrence doesn’t work in the Middle East, why does it have a large nuclear arsenal if not to deter its enemies?

Iran’s weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists, says the President. But would a country that has labored for decades to pursue a nuclear program and suffered huge sanctions and costs to do so then turn around and give the fruits of its efforts to a gang of militants? This kind of reasoning is part of the view that the Iranians are mad, messianic people bent on committing mass suicide. When General Martin Dempsey explained on my CNN program last month that he viewed Iran as a “rational actor,” he drew howls of protest.

I find his arguments logical on every level.  But I would love for somebody to point out the flaws they see.  As it stands, I really see this as yet another case of never learning our lessons, even when we are still suffering the consequences from our previous bad decisions.  Is it so important to create the appearance of being “tough” that we must do so even if it is to our own detriment?  Given my druthers, I would rather Iran not develop a nuclear weapon.  But how much danger does a nuclear Iran actually pose to the United States?

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Good grief!  I guess it is good that Alabama “matters” this year for the  G.O.P. presidential nomination.  But I had no idea that was going to mean being inundated with robocalls from the Mitt Romney campaign.  It’s spam on my phone answering machine!

Though in a way, robocalls do seem like an appropriate tactic for Mitt Romney.

Does this tactic actually work?  Personally he has annoyed me so much that I wouldn’t vote for him if he paid me.  But I can only assume that he is using the same tried and true methods that he used in Michigan and Ohio to gain ground on and eventually beat Santorum in those states.  And if the polls are to be believed, and so far they have seem to have been fairly accurate in the other states, Romney has closed the gap in Alabama too where it is virtually a dead heat between him, Santorum, and Gingrich.  Keep in mind for all the talk about who wins what states, the primary splits delegates proportionately, so really as long as Mitt can keep it close, he wins, whether he literally gets the most votes or not.

So it must be effective.  I just don’t understand how a robocall about Santorum’s votes in Washington or Gingrich being ran out-of-town as Speaker of the House would make somebody change their vote.  As for me, I’ve just taken a look at the sample ballot and I think I’m going to take a pass on voting in the primary.  At one time I thought I might throw a vote Mitt’s way as the least crazy option, but the longer the campaign has gone, the less worthwhile that seems (plus Mitt is going to win anyway).  I certainly could not care less who the specific delegates are.  Then there are a whole lot of judicial races that I am in no way qualified to determine who would do the best job (I see Roy Moore is trying to get the job of Alabama Supreme Court chief justice back.  It’s a little tempting to go vote against him, but the reality is I don’t know if having the other two candidates win will ultimately change any decisions.  I’ve kind of learned my lesson about those sort of things.  I don’t think voting for Robert Bentley as governor to try to prevent the likes of Moore and “we speak English” Tim James from winning has significantly changed the direction of this state for the better.)

I’m all about participating in the political process.  But I also believe if you truly have no preference or simply do not have the knowledge to make an educated decision, you shouldn’t use your vote to cancel out the vote of somebody who does.  That probably doesn’t make me the best citizen in the world, but whatever.

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Questions

Posted: March 3, 2012 in Current Events, Miscellaneous, Politics

  • Is it wrong for me to think that something might be broken in a system where I pay a higher effective tax rate than Mitt Romney?  I know Mitt is a “job creator” and all, but still, he made $21 million and I made much, much less than that.  Fine, there are those that say you shouldn’t punish “success”.  But what the heck did I do wrong?
  • If  we can reach a deal with North Korea to suspend its nuclear weapon program, why can’t the same be done with Iran?  Goodness knows the leadership isn’t any nuttier.
  • Why are lawmakers that are supposedly for getting government out of our lives suddenly so interested in the government determining what medical procedures women must get?
  • So are the four candidates that are left for the Republican nomination really the best the G.O.P. have to offer?  Is there some gentlemen’s agreement between the two parties to not seriously challenge either party’s incumbent President?  Because the Republicans are totally ‘John Kerry-ing’ this election!
  • Why in Alabama do state legislators make a higher average salary than teachers, given that legislators normally would only work 105 days a year?  Further, why are they guaranteed cost of living raises when every other state employee has to do without due to budget restraints?
  • Would we as society be better off if all the television and radio pundits would just go away?  Do they have any redeeming value whatsoever?  Or do they just serve to stupefy public discourse?
  • Why is it “leaves” and not “leafs”?
  • Why didn’t I watch Arrested Development when it was on television?  It’s awesome!

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