Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trayvon Martin: Stand Your Ground, Political Agendas and Justice

I think you may have heard about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Without getting too far into the details, Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest which resulted in his death. The incident has sparked a lot of attention and heated debates. Personally, given what I have heard thus far, Zimmerman clearly was the aggressor from the beginning and due to sloppy police work, not specific laws, he is still walking around as a free man. We shall see what the grand jury comes back with on April 10th of this month.

Stand Your Ground:
The media's attention and a lot of liberal focus has been on 'stand your ground' laws. These laws exist in a number of states and they are designed to protect good citizens defending their property or family when faced with a threat. They are not designed to shield failed security guards or people who could not hack it on the police force so they become 'neighborhood watchmen' and tail Black folks. Nor are they applicable to people who just want to start shit just for the fun of it. Given the 911 tapes and Zimmerman's own words, he can claim 'stand your ground'(simply due to being able to claim anything in a court of law as a defense) but the tapes point to him as the aggressor. The problem, as it's been erroneously framed, is not 'stand your ground', but terrible police work. Simply because the police did not do their job, we should not conclude that the law is bad. The police still should have done their job. They should have drug tested Zimmerman, spoken to the witnesses in a timely manner, shook down his vehicle as well as impound the police vehicle upon which he was transported to the police station that evening. They failed. If the grand jury does not find enough reason to charge him and proceed with a criminal trial, it's because of a bad police investigation and not because of 'stand your ground' laws. Even the Republican drafters of Florida's stand your ground law said Zimmerman is not covered by it. No need to take aim at the law because of this case. 

Political Agendas:
Unfortunately political games have taken over when the real fight has nothing to do with specific legislation, whether proposed or already on the books. Many folks, especially white liberals have used this tragedy as a means to take aim at guns, the NRA, legislation, and to strip this case of race. There have been conservative voices who've presented red herrings with respect to 'black on black' violence(some liberals and Black folks have pushed up this non-sense too) which is not the issue in the Martin case. Quick note; People usually kill others who look like them and live around them (this is not new information). Some have even become angry with President Obama for answering a question he was asked about the Martin case. He was prompted and spoke as a father. If you have a problem with the NRA or you want less guns on the streets, fine but do not latch that agenda onto this case. Play your political games elsewhere. It's wholly divisive and only serves your purpose and not the Martin family. If you have an ax to grind with Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson for being 'media hounds', fine. This incident is not a springboard for you to place your angst with them as individuals within the context of this case. Nor is it an opportunity for you when Black folks present observations in terms of treatment and action within the legal system and all of it's parts, to conclude they are whining. Making observations is not whining. You may firmly believe they're(Sharpton, Jackson and whomever else) always waiting for racial tension to occur so they can get their 10 minutes but how does that get the Martin family to justice? Furthermore is it Sharpton and Jackson who clamor for the attention or do the cameras only come around when this kind of tension(racial) happens? Making claims such as 'I don't see the same kind of fervor dedicated to Black on Black violence' is wholly ignorant. Even if you believe you as an individual focus on 'black on black' crime, that misses the point entirely here. The focus should be on helping the Martin family and not making elitist claims promoting your own importance. You may not see the same type of media coverage offered but you ought not think such dedication is absent. You just don't know about it and that could easily be your fault. Keep your political agendas at home. This is not a political football.

Removing Race from the discussion:
I'm tired of hearing claims such as 'this could have happened to anybody'. It didn't. I normally hear such talk from seemingly well to do white liberals who've bought into the rhetoric that to stand for justice in this case, you must strip the racial component in order to include yourself. It's color blindness at it's core. Martin was not killed because he was wearing a hoodie or carrying skittles and some tea. He was killed because he was a Black kid who was in a neighborhood with a racist vigilante with an itchy trigger finger. Removing race to include yourself is totally selfish. You are not on the side of seeking justice in this case when your first move is to strip it of it's definite tone. Also attempting to remind people that Zimmerman is Hispanic does not mean he's not a racist. Listen to the 911 tapes. Brown skin does not equal not a racist. 

Justice:
If I'm going to take my cues from anyone, it will be Trayvon Martin's parents. They have simply asked that justice be carried out for their son. They have not asked for a review of the 'stand your ground' laws like Bill Clinton did. They have not fused this case with politics, games, smoke screens and the various side shows that have developed. They want answers and they want to know why their son was not given a fair shake. Their concerns are legitimate(I wish I didn't have to say that). Yes there have been miscarriages of justice throughout this country's history regarding Black folks but we should not conclude the entire system or that justice is something we should not fight to protect. There have been bad laws and bad people interpreting them with the intent to not be fair in their distribution of sentencing, lazy/lying ass police officers, gathering evidence, lawyering, judicial review, protecting overzealous prosecutors, etc. If anything the Martin case ought to be a call to you to demand more of the system. Yes, injustice happens. It's a fact of the matter. Corruption exists but we have to do our job to root it out as citizens and stop expecting perfection and this Utopian sense of law and justice. There are plenty of cases wherein the system does work and bad people are adequately punished for their crimes. I understand people are pissed off but don't call for silly solutions such as getting rid of the police, or throwing out our entire legal framework. It's just not a good solution and it's not even close to being practical at all. There is definitely a problem in that PART of the legal system wherein the Martin case, at least given the sloppy handling of it by the cops, did not do what it's supposed to do. There you demand better officers and more accountability and getting shitty ass people out of important positions. You may argue that my thoughts are themselves Utopian and me seriously thinking people are going to take the time to evaluate, investigate and hold people in important positions accountable for what they do will not happen. I don't know if I'd agree with that or not but I will say, fight on anyway. Get involved in Innocence Projects in your area. Volunteer your time and expertise. 

I don't know what will happen in this case on the 10th. I hope the Martin family gets the answers they seek. They matter and they need closure. I hope they receive it in a timely manner. To be continued.....

P.S. Yes I am aware of some dumbass regional NRA chairman saying some horrible things. He's a horrible person. 

How Not to Deal with an Angry German Prostitute

A few weeks ago I had a few drinks and met a woman in London. We had a great time mixed with good food, great conversation and sex. She's also a prostitute. She claims we had sex for three hours and has resorted to seeking monetary recourse through blasting my picture all over the internet. I don't remember her taking any photos of me but I did recognize the tiger cuffs in the background. Perhaps Madam Rosi and I can work out some kind of compromise. For your viewing pleasure, I have both videos. The first is in German and the second is in English. She claimed I booked over the internet. She's lying.

http://tuby.tv/2/4f1208b8f912935b
http://tuby.tv/1/fd8899c99bf252e8

FYI: this is totally a joke but fucking funny nonetheless. In case I win any awards I don't want this to come back and bite me in the ass.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Psychics, Mediums, and Flim Flam Artists

I'm sure you've stayed up late at night and seen a commercial enticing you to pick up the phone and call into some hotline wherein you will be connected to someone who can tell you all sorts of things about your life. Think Ms. Cleo. A Black woman with a Jamaican accent advising you to 'call me now for your free reading'. Quick note about Ms. Cleo; Court documents revealed she was actually born in Los, Angeles California and her parents are United States citizens. The Jamaican accent she employed was a part of the show. Right here in Atlanta we have a number of self-proclaimed psychics who will charge you money for their services. They've developed an industry knowing people are searching for answers, banking on them going to the wrong places to get those answers, and that they can supply them with the answers. They are right. They can supply answers but the real question is how meaningful are the answers?

By answers I mean, after you have supplied some information for them to make a guess. Say the person says, did you buy your wife roses? You say yes and they say 'for a birthday or anniversary' and you say anniversary and they say 'your wife is very happy'. The person could easily see your wedding ring, know that roses are typically associated with married couples regarding special days and operate with the idea that some or most women would be happy receiving roses from their husband. Psychic? No. Observant? Yes. 

If you've gone to a psychic or even watched them on Youtube or television please take note of their tactics. First, she/he will ask you a series of broad questions or make statements which are so open ended, you are left to supply the meaning to the words. Say the psychic says 'Does the letter R mean anything to you'? The letter R, could signify anything to YOU. It could be the beginning of a person's name, a street name, school name, a letter in a tattoo on your body, something to do with your favorite movie, etc. The question cannot be answered with a simple 'yes' and it's specifically designed to get you to think. The problem with that is when you supply the meaning, the psychic looks like she/he has some kind of power when all they did was ask/made a broad question/statement. If one question does not do the trick they will ask/make a multitude of questions or statements. They are phishing with fast paced statements and questions and waiting for you to gravitate toward their tactics and when you do, they claim some sort of meaningful purpose in the interaction. All they are doing is talking to you. They present themselves as trustworthy and believable people who are just trying to help you. If simply asking people broad questions in a shotgun type manner is what qualifies anyone to be a psychic, then I've been one for at least 10 years. Next time you come across a psychic, ask them why they have not predicted the lotto numbers so they can get rich. If they say 'I shall not use my powers for my own gain' tell them they could use the money to help feed the homeless. If they still don't do it, draw your conclusion about their ability from there. 

Mediums are another set of people who claim to offer solutions. They typically pitch themselves as some kind of gatekeeper or messenger between living and dead people. They too employ the shotgun method in terms of questions and statements. A new 'medium' has appeared on TLC with the same bull shit as all of the others. The show is called Long Island Medium. In my opinion these people are vultures who fly around looking for pain, which they know is inevitable and when it comes they swoop right in. One clip was with a woman who'd lost her husband while he was on duty(http://tlc.discovery.com/videos/long-island-medium-videos/) The clip is titled 'Widowed Wife' if the link does not take you directly to it. He was killed by another driver while he was writing a traffic ticket. They had 3 children together at the time of his death. It's a very tragic situation and the woman was clearly still in pain. She knew the material explanation for her husband's death(she said it) but she also believed the medium could answer some questions. Listen at the end of the clip to what the medium says. She says 'your husband told me to tell you that it gets harder from here'. Notice the lack of specificity of the statement. It's very broad and if she or her boys experience some kind of hardship in any way, the statement applies. There's nothing inherently special about her claim to this woman. It's simply being as vague and broad as you can to allow whomever you are speaking with to FILL IN THE BLANKS. Notice the dead people with whom they are claiming to speak of offer the most vague of replies to substantive questions too. 

These people and I argue a lot of pastors and preachers know this too, is that we are prone to commit the post hoc ergo proctor hoc fallacy. Say you prayed to a god to make a way for you to get the job you were seeking. You get the job and you conclude that since you got the job, the prayer worked. In other words the prayer CAUSED you to get the job. Not necessarily. You may have prayed and you did get the job but it is not automatically inferred that since you prayed, that specific action brought about you getting the job in question. They know we usually are not as skeptical when confronted with a smiling face and an extended hand coupled with emotional or euphemistic language. That particular starting point is where they make all sorts of claims for which they do not intend to work for. I group astrologers in the same category. Check your local newspaper or horoscope and look how broadly and vaguely each piece is written. Horoscopes may be fun to read and all and that rising moon shit may be decent fiction but do not build your life around it.

Keep an eye out for these people. They write best-sellers, appear on television, i.e. Sylvia Browne, and hold expensive sessions on cruise liners. They offer empty platitudes and pseudo-science. Yes they offer solutions and places where you can talk but in my assessment, it will not do you any good. 



Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Black NASCAR fan? You can't be serious!!

I've been asked by a few people why I like NASCAR. The fan base is largely considered to be a bunch of in-bred, loud, ignorant, undereducated, redneck, fuck sticks. Now that description is true of at least some of the fans but not all of them. I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina which is arguably home territory to a lot of NASCAR teams and drivers. As a kid I was changing the channels on the television and came across the Daytona 500. The cars were moving at a high rate of speed, the track looked interesting and I immediately became hooked. I was all of 5 years old at the time and I still watch the races, follow the developments with sponsors, drivers, tracks and feuds to this day. I've been to races at Charlotte Motor Speedway(formerly Lowes Motor Speedway), Atlanta Motor Speedway, Rockingham, and Talladega. You may be wondering about how I am received as a fan, both by non-NASCAR fans and by some NASCAR fans. I'll fill you in.

I haven't had any direct bad treatment from any fans to my face. No one has tried to have me removed or got in my face. I have received 'odd' looks from some people but I don't let that shit spoil the race for me. While I have not had any non-sense to my face or had direct comments made to me by fans in person, the same cannot be said about commentary offered online. I use to play a game called NASCAR 08, on Xbox Live. You could communicate via text and headset with other racers. Most of the players I encountered were White and a lot of them didn't have too many positive outlooks on Black people.....until they learned I was Black. One of my 'online friends/racers' did not know I entered a race upon which he started. The way it was set up though, he could see the names of each person who decided to join the event. I figured out that he was away from his television when he made his comments. He expressed his hatred for Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and his love of the rebel flag(he lived in South Carolina) and opined that if Obama were elected, he'd be killed while in office. He also made some comments about Black people being lazy, ignorant and wanting Black folks to go back to Africa. None of his comments were new to my ears but I learned that when a person feels comfortable within the group she/he inhabits and does not think or know a member of the group he/she is about to blast is within ear shot, they reveal their true character. I ended up not participating in the online event, but not before I gave him what he deserved. The rest of the members were quiet but they knew the both of us. Afterward I received 12 messages from each driver indicating they did not agree with his views and that they should have said something instead of me. His attitude is very pervasive and I've seen similar comments made in NASCAR forums about Blacks and other races and especially hatred of Jews. Yes there are NASCAR fans that are racists but I do not let their nastiness keep me away from enjoying the sport. I've met and interacted with other people who were glad to have another NASCAR friend in the area or online. It's another way to bond with people.

The non-NASCAR fans are generally shocked. Black folks are not supposed to like NASCAR because NASCAR fans are racist rednecks. It's no secret NASCAR is largely a White sport, from drivers, track owners, team owners, and fans so the shock is partially understood by me. I receive equal levels of shock from both Blacks & Whites, Liberals(especially) and Conservatives. I think the shock is largely due to ignorance and the lack of interaction with NASCAR fans because the perception is 'they must be uneducated rednecks'. When they find out I'm a fan the immediate question is WHY mixed with 'you are too smart to like something so silly and inane'. I usually respond by delving into their favorite past times and make the argument, someone else probably thinks the exact same thing about something you like or do.

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden: Last year, The White House and NASCAR teamed up for an event to raise money for veterans and FLOTUS and Jill Biden were invited to the final event in the NASCAR schedule, the Ford 400 in Homestead-Miami, Florida. FLOTUS and Jill Biden were booed when they were introduced as the grand marshals of the event. Grand marshals usually give the command for the drivers to start their engines. Yes, it's ceremonial but it's part of the show. Immediately, erroneous headlines emerged calling NASCAR fans racists for booing Michelle Obama while subsequently omitting Jill Biden's attendance. NASCAR fans in general are Republicans. They BOTH were booed for political reasons and yes those fans at the track that day made themselves look bad by being assholes when Michelle Obama AND Jill Biden were there for a great cause. There was absolutely no need to make calls of racism here. Many called for the sanctioning body, NASCAR, to issue an apology to Michelle Obama. It's not the sanctioning body's fault. They did nothing wrong. Here's the kicker. Other Black folks have been grand marshal's at events, waved the green flag, and driven the pace-car. Their political affiliations were not widely known nor announced prior to their involvement in race activities. The smear merchants would know that if they had seen other NASCAR events and were not so quick to jump on the bandwagon when an organization prints a misleading headline.

I enjoy the technology, the sounds of the cars, the pit stops, and the speed. You may say, what's so exciting about a bunch of cars turning left 500 times? I get it. It can be a bit monotonous. I say go to a race and to those who say 'it's easy' I say get your ass out there and try. Anybody can drive a car but can you do it at that level, perform well every week, and not tear the entire car up? I doubt it. I love cars in general and I treat my own car like a baby.  I've gotten a few of my friends to get into the sport and although they are not as hardcore as I am about it, it feels good to introduce them to something they probably would not have given a chance until they met me. I'm a fan of a lot of other motorsports too. Indycar, F1, NHRA, V8 Supercars, Speed World Challenge and ALMS. But NASCAR has the biggest presence here and it always captures my interest. It may capture yours too, if you just give it a fair chance.