Monday, July 15, 2013

Making Sense of the Trayvon Martin Murder Case

One thing we can all agree on is that this case was a tragedy.  At the end of the day, a young man is dead and another man's life is ruined as he will live as a social outcast for the rest of his life.  The lives of the victim's family has been torn apart forever.  None of this should have happened.  If George Zimmerman hadn't been a wannabe cop, racial profiler and busy body, all of this could have been avoided.  It's telling how people who knew Zimmerman said he would call the police up to 20-30 times per day.  He's the kind of white (or at least half white) guy you would absolutely hate to live near--uptight as fuck, never minding his own business, and likely giving you shit about the state of your lawn.  If I were Trayvon Martin and this guy was giving me shit for no reason, I would have wanted to give him a good throttling, too.  Zimmerman had it coming to him.

The problem is that while Zimmerman deserved a beating, he didn't deserve to die, and Martin didn't have the right to kill him. A witness at trial and the pathologist both testified that based on eyewitness testimony and the nature of the bullet entry wounds to Trayvon Martin, he was on top of Zimmerman and pounding him in the head and wouldn't stop.  The injuries to the back of Zimmerman's head confirm this.  Getting your head slammed against concrete will kill you.  Based on Florida's "stand your ground" law, you can defend yourself with lethal force if you believe your life is threatened.  The facts of this case are clear here that Zimmerman could have reasonably believed this given the circumstances.

Initially, this case wasn't even going to be filed.  Prosecutors are charged with only bringing cases when the facts warrant them.  They have discretion to decide when something is worth pursuing or not.  Given how weak the case was against Zimmerman, the prosecutor wasn't going to bring this case.  It was only after the Obama administration weighed in on the matter publicly and political pressure was brought to bear that the case was brought against Zimmerman.  The problem with this is that the rule of law is inconsistent with playing political games.  As Obama has little respect for the rule of law given his disregard for the Fourth Amendment with respect to privacy rights and surveillance, this isn't surprising.

It wasn't right for Zimmerman to racially profile Martin.  It wasn't right for him to engage him, which led to a fight.  But under Florida law, this doesn't make Zimmerman a murderer.  A certified dickhead?  Definitely, but not a murderer.

There are folks like Al Sharpton who are saying that this verdict is an "atrocity" and that this case is reminiscent of the type of racial injustice served up by the Old South.  This inflammatory rhetoric doesn't apply to the circumstances of this case.  If people are unhappy with the expansive "stand your ground" legislation, they need to work on getting the law changed, but using the court system to punish Zimmerman for being racist is inconsistent with the rule of law.  When we violate that, then eventually we all lose because eventually every one of us is on the wrong side of politics.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Fighting For Our Freedom: It is in Our Hands

The greatness of America is not rooted in our current presidency.  It is not rooted in the vast military-industrial complex that has taken hold of our government since the 1950's and that was warned about by former top general and president Dwight Eisenhower.  It is not rooted in our economic strength, nor in our ability to kick ass using brute force.

The greatness of America is instead that conceived of by our founding fathers and written into the Constitution.  The notion that we would be a country run not by the whims and egos of politicians, but by a rule of law.  The notion that all people are treated equally under the law and that favoritism, nepotism, and other forms of tyranny would not rule.

The founding fathers through the Bill of Rights asserted that citizens have some rights the government may not take away.  These include the rights to free speech, religion, and peaceable assembly, among others.

Freedom isn't something we win so then can go rest on our laurels.  Men and women who run for political office tend to be narcissistic and selfish.  Power tends to corrupt.  When one has been in office long enough, power can go to one's head and lead to a sense of entitlement and arrogance.  The desire to control the people and subjugate them is an old story.  That is precisely why the founding fathers designed a system of checks and balances into our government.  The presidency is limited by Congress.  Tradition has led to the Supreme Court checking the power of Congress when it passes unconstitutional laws.  It is our job as citizens to remain aware of what is going on and hold our politicians accountable when they attempt to seize too much power for themselves and violate the Constitution.  If we fail to do so, we will eventually lose all of our freedoms.

Ever since 2000, the power of the presidency has grown totally out of control.  From illegal torture to drone strikes to mass surveillance, Bush started the abuses and Obama doubled down on them.  Instead of rolling back the abuses, Obama enhanced them.  As it stands now, he is far worse than Bush with respect to violating the rule of law and overstepping his bounds.  He has punished journalists and whistleblowers more aggressively than any other president under the Espionage Act.  He has violated international law by enhancing the drone strike program, and has even taken to killing American citizens without a trial. Hundreds of innocent men, women and children have been murdered by these strikes.  Each of them is nothing more than an American terror campaign which terrifies the locals in Yemen and Pakistan and leads to the creation of more terrorists, not less.

What is so reprehensible about Obama is how dishonest he is.  Bush was more or less honest about his Constitutional abuses.  Obama said he was going to reduce the power of the imperial presidency and Bush's abuses.  Instead he expanded them.

It is unfortunate that now in Washington, we have two parties which serve the same masters--corporate America, the rich, and the military-industrial complex.  So called liberals like Diane Feinstein team up with right wing politicians like Lindsey Graham to support mass spying and surveillance in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  Ironically, the only people still supporting the Constitution are strange bedfellows--right wing Rand Paul and left wing Bernie Sanders both oppose the drone strike program and mass surveillance.  Believing in the Constitution is not a Democrat or Republican issue anymore.  It is something we must all do.

It was just the fourth of July.  As usual, there is talk about how free we are and how special America is.  This won't be true forever.  Elites like Obama and Diane Feinstein are hell-bent on crushing whisteblowers and those who expose government abuses of power.  We must remember that it is America who has violated international law by putting pressure on countries throughout the world to extradite Edward Snowden, even though he has the right under the U.N. to apply and receive political asylum.  It is America that pressured France, Spain, and other countries to nearly cause the presidential plane of Evo Morales of Bolivia to crash by denying his flight over these countries on the mere suspicion that Snowden was aboard his plane.

It is America that sends flying robot drones to murder people in foreign countries, violating their sovereign status.  It is America that sends trained killers to murder people, not Bolivia or Venezuela.  Freedom is more than words.  It is more than Obama's lies and bullshit.  He can say whatever he wants, but what he does it what matters, and his record is horrendous.

As citizens we are called to apply pressure to our politicians.  If we say nothing, we are culpable.  Each day our freedoms are being rolled back.  If we fail to do anything because we don't want to be bothered.  Then under the name of "security" from terrorism we will become slaves.  We have already lost our privacy.

I believe in America.  I believe that this nation can be what our founding fathers intended.  And I refuse to lie back and say nothing while egomaniacs like Obama shred the Constitution.

The answer is not violence.  The answer is not terrorism against our government.  When enough Americans peacefully protest and raise their voices, change can happen.  It is a struggle that is long and hard.  Think of the civil rights struggle.  It took many years.  It is one of continuing to struggle and not giving up.  Grassroots efforts are important.

Freedom is in our hands.  If we lean back and focus on updating our Facebook statuses and texting while our rights are stripped away, then once we are reduced to the state of quasi-slaves we have no one to blame but ourselves.