Politics

Actually, no…I don’t have to #FeelTheBern

Democratic candidates 2016

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and the only person guy in the race that cared about cities until he dropped out…

Although it feels like it actually started on Inauguration Day 2013, the race for the 2016 Republican and Democratic Presidential nominations actually began last night with the Iowa Caucuses…or as I like to call it, Beginning Our 21st Century Electoral Process In A Place That Looks Like America Did In The 1700s.

For far too long, the Political Pundit Class has been abuzz with expectation about the Iowa Caucuses, who will win, who will lose, and what this means for the 2016 Presidential Race.

But you’re gonna have to forgive me if I’m already kinda fatigued with the whole process. While that’s been happening earlier and earlier as I experience presidential election years as your Mad (political) Scientist, I think that this year is some kind of record.

Why? Because when our political discourse devolves to the point that people are using terms better used to describe someone you might see on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,  count me out.

Let me explain.

By now, you’ve met all of the people who hope to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when Barack and Michelle Obama move out in 2017.

Until he lost the Iowa Caucuses last night, the Republican frontrunner was Donald Trump,a man who had managed to confound everything I ever learned in Political Science class by angering and offending almost everyone without dropping a point in the polls. He was beaten by Ted Cruz, a man who wishes he had that skill, thanks to Evangelical Christians.

(Am I the only one who finds it odd that the main group in this country that complains about ISIS and Muslim caliphates is the one group that wishes it could get away with creating a caliphate of it’s own?)

Marco Rubio, a guy who appears to have gone to the Sarah Palin School of Being A Public Official came in third, Dr. Ben Carson, who was the frontrunner at one time despite his propensity to compare everything (and I do mean everything) to slavery came in fourth, with former Hewlitt-Packard CEO (and Planned Parenthood video truther) Carly Fiorina, the Man With The Golden Mop, Gov. Chris Christie, and a whole bunch of guys that you’re not hearing a lot about including Rick Santorum, Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (who was supposed to be the frontrunner) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who makes too much sense to be considered for the nomination.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a man whose ad based on the Adele song “Hello” is easily the frontrunner for Worst Campaign Commercial Ever, dropped out last night. Paul joined him in the “No Longer Running” category earlier today.

Which brings us to the Democrats.

Anyone who thought that Hillary Clinton wasn’t going to make another run at the presidency after losing the Democratic nomination to Obama in 2008 needs to pass around whatever you’re smoking because it’s obviously the good stuff.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was the only person talking about cities, dropped out of the race after falling to third in the Iowa Caucuses last night. What angers me most about that is how he was treated while he was in it….which was like a third eye. I get that in our current media landscape, paying attention to more than one or two things at a time is hard, but if folks would have tried it, the country may have benefitted.

Which brings me to the only person other than Clinton that the media seems to be paying attention to: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He and Clinton were in a statistical dead heat in the Iowa caucuses, which Hillary won by the skin of her teeth and he currently leads in New Hampshire, another one of those states that determines America’s presidential candidates despite not looking at all like America does anymore.

Sanders, who has spent his entire time in the Senate as an Independent that caucuses with the Democrats, defines himself as a Socialist in a way that indicates that he knows what Socialism actually is. He’s filling basketball stadiums with people who are really taking to his message of breaking up banks, taxing the 1 percent, and providing a free college education and healthcare to everyone.

While I have some folks in my circle of friends that call Sanders’s ideas dangerous, I don’t agree necessarily. Free school for all might make it possible for me to get the last three classes I need for my masters. While I now have health insurance, something that diabetes made hard to get before the Affordable Care Act, single payer, Medicaid for All insurance could work.

But yet, I don’t #FeelTheBern, which has led to some really uncomfortable confrontations with friends of mine who do.

When I point out that much of what Sanders wants to do is going to be tough if not impossible because one or both house of Congress is going to remain in the hands of a Republican majority that’s come real close to committing treason a few times, I’m accused of an having an “irrational hatred” of their candidate.

When I ask about Sanders’s record when it comes to people of color or policies about things I find important like education or cities, I’m either told to “do your research”, something that I’d dare you to tell to a 85-year-old Super Voter, or and this is my favorite, to clarify my so-called “liberal bonafides” because I’m asking questions that make me look like a “shape shifter”.

No. I’m not kidding. I got called that by another Sanders supporter. That kinda did it for me. Like I said, when we’re using terms better suited to an episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s a problem.

Now I understand that people are passionate about whom they support politically. I get it. And I also know that because of how passionate you are, you kinda take it personally when someone doesn’t necessarily agree with you.

But as my late Mom always put it, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, something that Sanders supporters might want to take into consideration.

I read an article in The Atlantic a while back called “Here Comes The Berniebro”, which was a mostly flattering portrait of the young, mostly White men who are spending a lot of time on Social Media and in the streets to get you to #FeelTheBern.

While in most cases they’re harmless, some of them are, well, pushy.

In another article I read on the website “Jezebel” entitled, “Bernie Sanders’ Campaign is Concerned About the BernieBro” these guys have been going around harassing women who support Clinton and coming for the neck of anyone who questions their candidate, something I’ve experienced first hand.

To be fair, Sanders’s partisans aren’t the only ones doing this stuff. Ever talk to a Trump supporter? Whew! And I spent most of the 2008 Democratic Convention dodging Clinton’s rabid PUMAs (Party Unity My Ass for those of you who may have forgotten) and the vitriol they were bringing.

Like I said, I understand passion. But as someone who spends more than a little time in the Presidential Sausage Making Factory, a registered independent, and someone who reserves the right to demand an eloquent argument for your candidate if you’re trying to get me to support them, it’s time for those who have been resorting to name calling, browbeating, and other less than helpful means to try and push me, and others like me, into the Bernie Sanders Fire Pit to back off.

Otherwise, there may be a run on aloe vera as the Democratic primaries roll on…

Aloe vera, as you know, heals burns…

 

What About Your Friends?

I kinda wondered what would keep a 90-year-old man in failing health on a terrorist watch list...

I kinda wondered what would keep a 90-year-old man in failing health on a terrorist watch list…

There’s a saying: The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend.

That saying has played a pretty large part in the foreign policy of the United States since, well, forever.  It’s expected that if you’re going to be a friend of ours, you also have to be an enemy to our enemies. For example, if you want to be cool with the folks who run things here in the United States, it’s okay for you to swear allegiance to Israel, which is one of our friends, but you can’t hang out with, say, the leader of the Taliban.

Failure to understand and observe this dynamic can lead to your getting the  side eye from certain leaders here in the United States. It can get you branded as someone who, in the words of our favorite Sage From The Yukon, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, pals around with terrorists.

There are a whole lot of examples of this in American History…the latest being the man pictured above, former South African President Nelson Mandela. When the anti-apartheid activist died last Thursday, we learned a lot about him. We learned about how he passed the time in the 27 years he was imprisoned on Robben Island. We learned about how he ended up in Johannesburg (His parents had arranged a marriage for him). We learned about the trials and tribulations that Winnie Mandela, his wife at the time, had to endure because of the iconic status he had obtained as a freedom fighter among Black South Africans.

But the most interesting thing that we learned about Mandela, or Madiba as he was known among the Xhosa, is that despite a couple of visits to the United States in the 1990s, a lack of any violent activity since his release from prison, and the fact that he was an aging statesman in poor health, he was on the U.S. Terrorist Watchlist until 2008.

Now what would keep a 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner in failing health on a list that included Osama Bin Laden, a dude that masterminded the biggest terrorist attack in our nation’s history?

The fact that Mandela didn’t follow the whole “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing.

(And can we talk about how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t afford to come to Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa on Tuesday, but can afford $6,000 in scented candles? Who needs $6,000 in scented candles? What in the heck does that look like?!)

Now in the 1980s, when American news organizations knew that it might be a good idea to know what’s going on in the rest of the world because it could impact us, we all learned about the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The nation’s Black majority was being ruled by a White minority that can be charitably described as cruel. Blacks lived in shanty towns called homelands. They were forced to carry passport-looking ID cards to show they were in the right place and punishment was pretty swift if they either didn’t have the card or were in the wrong place.

Police brutality took on a whole new meaning there as activists like Steven Biko were killed in prison. The African National Congress, the political party to which Mandela belonged, was outlawed. Blacks themselves had no right to vote.

Because even Stevie Wonder could see that this whole arrangement was Straight. Up. Wrong., Mandela and the African National Congress fought to try and change things. They got arrested and tried for their efforts. Mandela spent 27 years in prison, most of them on Robben Island working in a quarry. He could only see his wife Winnie twice a year…

While he may have been in jail, Mandela’s message managed to get out into the world. A lot of us participated in sit-ins at our colleges and universities demanding that our tuition dollars not be used to finance anything in South Africa until apartheid was no more. We joined organizations like Amnesty International and wrote letters demanding Mandela’s release. There were calls for businesses in the United States to divest from South Africa as well.

Meanwhile, President Ronald Reagan, like many of the leaders in the West, opted to go with a solution that was designed to silence the protestors without damaging any business relationships in South Africa.

Constructive Re-engagement.

O-Tay.

There’s another saying, and I’m going to paraphrase here: If someone shows you who they are, believe them. While that goes for people, that goes double for governments. When a government pretty much lets you know that if you give it money through investment, that money will be taken to oppress the majority of its people, you should believe them…and keep your money, money raised through taxation, in your pocket.

But because South Africa had the right enemies, namely the Communist Bloc, Ronnie Raygun (thank you Gil-Scott Heron!) and his friends were willing to give the Apartheid Government money. Too bad for him that Congress had other ideas…veto-proof ones.

But the enemies of the Reagan Administration’s enemies became Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress’s friends. Folks like Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi and others who were definitely enemies of the United States helped when the West wouldn’t.

Which is why you had stuff like this as part of the list of tributes to Nelson Mandela this week…

Although Mandela found Communism as a philosophy lacking, to many on the Right, that kept getting thrown into remembrances of the man. You see, to most of those folks, the African National Congress should have just kept their mouths shut and waited for the West to finally get off of its ass. We see that you’re being oppressed, but take one for the team…

But it’s not a universal school of thought among the Right. In what can only be described as a shocker, I find that I have something with which I can agree with, gasp, former Speaker of the House, Republican Presidential Candidate, and Tiffany’s Frequent Shopper Card Owner Newt Gingrich.

As I mentioned earlier, Congress voted to hit South African with economic sanctions, which stuck despite the veto of Ronnie Raygun.

Most of the Senators voted to override the veto, but a small group voted to keep financing the Apartheid government. In fact, one of them spoke out this week and said that he didn’t regret his vote to maintain the veto.

That senator? Well, it should be no surprise to anyone that it’s former Vice President Dick Chaney. I can only imagine what’s going to come out of his piehole when someone mentions to him that President Barack Obama shook hands with Raul Castro, president of Cuba and brother of Fidel, at Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday.

(Editor’s Note: For those of you who are disgusted by the fact that President Obama shook hands with President Castro, don’t be. What did you want him to do, punch the dude in the mouth or something? Home training is a beautiful thing. Try and get some…)

It should also be no surprise that once folks discovered Mandela on that watch list, they cajoled President George W. Bush’s administration to take him off…despite the objections of his VP.

While I can understand the impulse of some to say that Mandela deserved the scrutiny that goes with being on the terrorist watch list because he took help from some pretty sketchy people without asking a lot of questions, I submit that the Cold Warriors making these criticisms need to shut their hypocritical pie holes.

We’re a country that tends to have no problem with tin horn dictators as long as they’re OUR tin horn dictators. Don’t believe me? Two words: Anastacio Somoza. Want three more? Jean-Claude Duvalier. We can even add Augusto Pinochet, Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos…the list of people we’ve paid to subjugate their people in the name of American interests in the Western Hemisphere alone is extensive and makes any so-called “moral” authority we have non-existent. I mean hell, my Dad fought in Vietnam. We’re not even going to go there…

Nelson Mandela, his willingness to forgive, and how that forgiveness helped South Africa move forward was brought up a lot this week.

That he extended this forgiveness to an allegedly democratic West that wouldn’t befriend his country until it had to makes Nelson Mandela a better man that I would be under the circumstances.

I guess that’s why he’s an icon…

Of Slavery, Affordable Health Care, and Crazy Talk…

“I know that getting raped every night by Massa and getting beaten by his wife really stinks, but it could be worse…you could have to sign up for Obamacare!

Because I write about politics, I try to find stuff that takes me away from that topic on my downtime, something that’s become harder to do of late.

Since we have become such a strictly divided populace, everything, even going to a movie, can lead to a political discussion. Last year, the movie The Help angered people because folks found it far too simplistic when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement. George Clooney has made a name for himself producing movies with a political bent including last year’s Best Picture winner Argo.

On Tuesday night, I managed to get a ticket to a movie that is probably going to be much too much for some of you to look at.

The movie was Steve McQueen’s adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s book 12 Years a Slave. 

Now in case you haven’t heard about this picture yet, here’s a little info. The movie stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northrup, a free Black man living in Saratoga, N.Y. who makes his living as a musician. He’s hired to play for a circus in Washington, D.C., goes out for dinner and drinks with his co-workers…and wakes up the next morning in shackles, gets beaten when he tries to explain that he’s a free man, and winds up in the hull of a ship with, of all people, Omar from The Wire.

(Actually, Michael K. Williams isn’t in the film that long…but I admit that I did find myself wishing that Omar would show up at various times during this film…)

Throughout the movie, you see the indignities that Northrup and his fellow slaves, especially the women, have to face as part of their servitude. One female slave, Patsey, portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o gets it coming and going between being raped nightly by Master Epps (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) and being abused by his jealous wife.

(Think of the triangle of Olivia, Fitz and Mellie on Scandal, with Mellie being allowed to beat Liv whenever she wants to…)

Most of the movies that have been done about slavery have either featured comedic violence (Django Unchained) or have otherwise glossed over the subject. Until 12 Years a Slave, Roots was about as realistic as we got when it came to the issue of slavery.

This movie is Roots On Steroids. 

When Master Epps takes his whip to Patsey because he feels she’s been “unfaithful” (and because of his wife’s prodding…) it’s with a graphic brutality that made me cover my eyes a couple of times. As blood flew into the air and skin on Patsey’s back was ripped open by the whip, many folks in the audience cringed.

Some walked out.

Others were crying.

Many of us didn’t have the words to describe what we’d seen.

But because I’m a political writer, one of things I thought as I walked out of 12 Years a Slave was “This is one group of folks who could have really used the Affordable Care Act!”

Now what did I mean by that? 

Dr. Ben Carson, a guy that until recently was better known for his accomplishments as a neurosurgeon and for the fact that Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed him in a movie, spoke to the Values Voters Coalition in Washington, DC.

Because he’s a doctor, the subject of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, came up. To most of the folks he was speaking to, this law, which is designed to give people access to health insurance, and thus better care, is the most horrible law ever passed…which is really saying something for a country that can count Jim Crow and the USA PATRIOT Act among its laws.

But while the sentence above might make you scratch your head, Dr. Carson topped it…

“Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” he said. “And it is, in a way, it is slavery.”

O-Tay…

Now last I looked, no one has been so oppressed by the prospect of going on the Healthcare.gov website and trying to acquire health insurance that they’ve asked someone to help them commit suicide, but slavery? Well, slavery might make you want to do that…

While Dr. Carson’s bon mot is the most recent…and the most ridiculous…example, there’s been this trend over the last six years to compare things and people to some of the most heinous events in world history. 

There are signs that feature President Barack Obama dressed in Nazi garb and wearing a Adolph Hitler-esque mustache. To be fair, President George W. Bush was featured in similar signs. The Confederate Flag is being waved in front of the White House by groups that have been led there by current Congressmen and former Vice Presidential Candidates…

And then there’s the whole health care as slavery thing…

Well at least we all know what “socialism” is…

(Probably not…)

As I was walking out of the Ritz Five theater with my Significant Other and an Old Friend discussing 12 Years a Slave, I came up with a list of observations:

  1. Slavery is in a class all by itself when it comes to brutality. Any circumstance where being Shark Bait is preferable to getting to your destination is a special brand of harsh.
  2. Solomon Northrup could have been spared 12 years of hell if someone had told him what freshmen co-eds in colleges and universities around the country are told every Fall: Watch who you’re drinking around…and always know where your drink is. If you walk away from it, it’s no longer your drink.
  3. Whomever is announcing the Academy Award nominations in March had better learn how to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o because it’s gonna be important….And…
  4. The next person stupid enough to try and equate anything that doesn’t include brutalizing people for fun and profit to slavery in my presence is gonna get dropped like a bad habit with a right hook. 

  

I especially mean that last one…My ancestors kind of demand it…




Follow the Leader

This here’s my Stepford Wife pose…please make a note of it…

What I’ve always loved about the news business is the chances that it’s given me to use what I picked up in the Sociology classes that I took both in high school and college.

Now what do I mean by that? I mean that when big, sort of cataclysmic things happen in news, stuff like the Sept. 11 Terrorist Attacks, the election of Barack Obama as our nation’s first President of color, the school shootings in places like Columbine and Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon bombings, we find out where we are as a society. Not the window dressing that we put on daily just to get around, but the stuff behind the curtain.

In other words, the Wizard of Oz comes out from behind the curtain when we’re hit with a national disturbance or a change that we didn’t see coming.

Last Saturday, we had one of those national disturbance things happen in the form of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

In case you were in a cave somewhere last weekend, and I don’t think that being in a cave could have even kept you from getting this information, Zimmerman was found not guilty on all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, a unarmed teen whose only crimes as far as I can see were (a) being a Black teen in a neighborhood that wasn’t his own and (b) being a Black teen in a neighborhood that wasn’t his own, wearing a hoodie, and defending himself when some dude with a gun decided to come at him.

As I said at the beginning of this post, stuff like the Zimmerman verdict, stuff that everyone in the country has taken a position of some sort on, tends to show us where we are as a country. Social Media has become the mother of all GPS systems and has really given us a pinpointed location in this regard.

So here’s where the Post-Zimmerman verdict GPS seems to be pointing.

One, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks, most of them White, all of them Conservative, think that Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot.

I have heard from a lot of the Conservatives that I let populate my Social Media life that Trayvon was a thug, he wore a hoodie, he was up to no good, and he sucker punched Zimmerman, so he deserved to be shot.

I surmised that these folks got their butts kicked a lot in high school because the only people who would think that it’s okay to shoot someone because they’re kicking your butt in a fight that YOU started are folks who got their butts kicked a lot in high school.

Under the Stand Your Ground law in Florida it’s perfectly legal to do this. I can’t change that as much as I’d like to. But folks, don’t try and justify it. While it’s legal, it doesn’t make it any less wrong. And it doesn’t make George Zimmerman any less of a punk because he decided to end a fight with a gun that he couldn’t end with his hands.

The GPS has also pointed me to this conclusion: Many of the same folks who think that Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot also believe that African Americans are incapable of something that we’re actually pretty good at.

Multitasking.

They believe that African Americans are not allowed to speak out about the injustice they perceive the Zimmerman verdict to be because they’re not paying enough attention to Black on Black crime.

(*cracking my knuckles because my fingers are gonna need to be really nimble for this*)

Now do I start at the section where this insults the intelligence of an entire race of people or do I go directly to the part where I use the word hypocrite a lot?

I think I’ll start at the insult because the ignorance implied in it burns and I’d like to put it out.

Because I’ve had times where I’ve had to remind certain White folks that I was not only as smart as they were, but in many cases smarter in my sleep, I’m sort of used to having to battle the perception that Blacks don’t know their heads from their asses.

So while having the folks who think that Trayvon Martin Deserved To Get Shot camp tell me that they find it impossible for Blacks to work for justice on both the Trayvon front and, for want of a better way to put it, The Children of the Corn front, is an annoyance, it’s a familiar one.

It was the Black folks, especially the College Educated Black Folks, that I found disappointing. When people of color with college educations start buying into this mess, I feel the Earth vibrating because the Talented Tenth are once again making W.E.B DuBois do double-back somersaults in his grave.

I didn’t see every piece of video in this particular vein, but I did see NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley’s interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. In case you didn’t, here it is:

Now people were more than a little mean to the Round Mound of Rebound on this, and I have a problem with people advocating that someone not be allowed to speak. But while I don’t believe that Black folks are a monolith, that Barkley is going along with something that was disproven in court, namely the whole “Trayvon had none of Zimmerman’s DNA on him, so how could he have hit him?” thing is a little troubling.

(Editor’s Note: I know that some of you want me to start calling people Uncle Toms here, but I won’t. If you call a Black person who bashes other Black people an Uncle Tom, you are insulting a noble literary character who allowed himself to be beaten to death rather than sell out his fellow slaves. Maybe we need to put “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe back on scholastic reading lists…many folks need to re-read it…)

I’ll end this section by pointing out that it’s more than a little disingenuous for people who have had no real concern about Black on Black Crime in the past to try and use this case to deflect that lack of concern onto Blacks themselves. Let’s be honest here. Your sudden concern is more about neutralization than anything else. You’re hoping that if you shout “Well, what about Black on Black Crime?!” loud enough that you’ll distract people from working toward the goal of decriminalizing the very existence of Black men.

Because let’s again be honest here: if being a Black man suddenly becomes decriminalized: meaning the ability to wear anything you want to without getting shot; the end of the assumption of criminality because one is Black On Thursday; and the right to self-defense without fear, what will you do with all of that prison space?

First of all, if I had a nickel for every press release, invitation to visit, and request to mentor that I get from groups in the Black community that are working their asses off on less-than-shoestring budgets to try and keep Black children from killing each other, I’d be sitting off the coast of Barcelona in a really nice villa writing books about baseball and coming back to the States during the summer just to catch a few games.

And secondly, let’s get down to the hypocrisy part.

One of my Facebook friends felt the need to post this picture to my timeline a couple of nights ago.

Oooh…It’s Al and Jesse…Let’s use this to try and scare ’em off…!

In case you don’t know who these gentlemen are, they are the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Or as I like to call them, The Straw Men That Folks Pull Out Whenever A Discussion of Racism or Civil Rights Comes Up.

As you can see, it’s a picture with some statistics about Black on Black crime and a demand that either of these gentlemen, or anyone else in the Black community, be able to name a Black person that’s been killed. When this was slapped on my page, it was done so with the belief that it would shame people into no longer talking about Trayvon.

Since I can name a couple of Black folks who were killed by other Blacks since Trayvon Martin’s death, mostly because they were former Children of the Corn, it was all I could do not to break out the bag of hammers.

But instead, my Significant Other The Sportswriter With The African American Studies Degree pointed out something else to me that I hadn’t thought of.

He asked, “When are we gonna start talking about White on White crime?”

Since Feb. 26, 2012, the day that Trayvon Martin was shot, there’s been more than a few mass murders.

Let’s start with the latest one: June 9, 2013: John Zawahri, 23, was shot and killed by police at Santa Monica College, but not before killing his brother and father at home three other people at school, carjacking someone, and shooting at passersby.

But here’s some more thanks to our friends at Mother Jones and USA Today and they all have one thing in common: They were perpetrated by White people:

  • July 20, 2012: James Holmes, a graduate student at a Colorado University, went into the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and started shooting. He killed 12 people and injured 70. He is about to go on trial.   
  • August 2012: White supremacist Wade Michael Page shot and killed six people worshipping in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in what police branded a hate crime. He shot himself after being shot by a police officer responding to the incident.
  • December 2012, Adam Lanza walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and gunned down 20 children and six adults.
  • Sept. 2012: Andrew Engeldinger, 36, handled his being fired from his job at a Minneapolis sign company by shooting and killing five people and then killing himself.
  • Later that month, Kurt Myers, 64, of Herkimer, N.Y. shot killed two men and wounded two others at a car wash in the town and held police at bay in a standoff overnight before they eventually killed him.   

I could go on, but I think you get my point. And this is only a partial list…

Now I know that the words “mental health issue” are going to come up, and in the cases of most of these folks, they probably should. Some of the Black on Black crime that folks are suddenly so concerned about should also be looked at from a mental health context, but never is.

But while we’re looking at mental health as a precursor for the crimes I just mentioned, and we should, we should also call them what they are: White on White crimes…

And the first march calling for an end to this is….when?

Finally, I need to explain the caption under the picture of myself I put on the top of this post because, you see, the only way that Blacks could truly be angry about the whole Zimmerman Verdict, at least according to this heading on my sociological GPS, they are instructed to be.

In other words, it’s kind of like my Dad used to say to me when I was doing something that I wanted to do, but that he didn’t want to recognize that I wanted to do like, say, journalism. He used to accuse me of following behind people, when what I was actually doing in some cases was leading.

(Now if I was doing what he wanted, I was leading. I never understood that.)

For being angry over the Zimmerman verdict, Blacks are being equated with robots in some quarters. This rage isn’t independent thought, it’s doing what you’re told by Al, Jesse, or “fill in the blank with whatever civil rights leader you can come up with here”. You shouldn’t do that, the critics say. How can you say that this was about racism? It was a man defending himself from a thug with traces of marijuana in his system.

(Sorry, but I have to cut in here because one of the things that’s bugged me about this case is that it shows there are a lot of people in Sanford, Fla. smoking some weed that they need to leave alone. Actual weed doesn’t make you want to attack anything but a plate of food. That you believe that Trayvon Martin got a hold of some weed that made him want to fight people tells me all that I need to know about the weed in Central Florida. We’ll be leaving that mess alone!)

As I usually do when I hear stuff like this, I call, you guessed it, Shenanigans!

I say this because you can’t get Black folks to agree on what kind of sandwiches to have for lunch, much less come to an across-the-board consensus on any issue. Black folks are also pretty hard to lead. That things like The March on Washington and The Million Man March even happened is more than a little significant if you know anything at all about Black folks.

Thus despite what some may think, the rage over the Zimmerman verdict isn’t about being told what to do as much as it is people combining it with the dismantling of parts of the Voting Rights Act and determining that America is up to some shenanigans when it comes to Black people and their agency again.

The rage is also a lot more multicultural than people want to admit. I’ve had more than a few of my White friends put up profile pics of themselves in hoodies, participate in marches, write their Congressmen, and otherwise say, and this is a direct quote from one of my White friends “That verdict was some bullshit!”

In the world of the People Who Believe That Trayvon Martin Deserved To Get Shot this kind of thinking makes them sheep as well.

But in the world where Justice isn’t just a hollow word, it’s beautiful.

Because of the places my sociological GPS has taken me on this issue, I’m kind of weary right now.

So I’ll leave you with the perspective of a Black Man on this issue. I think he can hit what I missed.


And because I’m feeling the need for some old-school hip-hop, I’ll also leave you with Eric B and Rakim…

For the Children of the Corn, Part II

“Oh, I’m so happy! I can get my gun back, go back to my house, and look for another Skittle-toting kid in a hoodie to shoot! Yay me!”


I was sitting in a booth at the Melrose Diner in South Philadelphia when the Associated Press alert on my I-Phone went off, informing me that the jury had reached a verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman had been on trial in Sanford, Fla. for second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Briefly, the story goes like this: Zimmerman saw Trayvon as he walked home from a convenience store where he had gone to buy a snack for his little brother. He finds the teen suspicious and calls the cops. Saying, “These assholes always get away..,” Zimmerman decides to pursue Trayvon despite the Sanford Police telling him not to. He shoots the teen in the chest and Trayvon dies. Zimmerman claims self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

(Editor’s note: Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, you’re allowed to shoot someone if you perceive that they’re about to harm you. They don’t have to actually harm you, however. They just have to look like they would.)

The trial had gone on for three weeks and people were sitting anxiously by their computers, television sets and smartphones waiting for the verdict. If the jury of six women, none of whom was Black, believed he was in a fight for his life, Zimmerman would go home, a free man. If not, he was looking at 25 years.

Shortly after 10, the verdict came: Not Guilty. On all counts. The jury believed Zimmerman’s self-defense claim and now he not only gets to go home, he gets the gun he used to shoot Trayvon back. 

Lovely.

What made me feel sort of hopeful was the reaction. I expected my Black friends to be ticked off. But a lot of my White friends were too. Disgusted was the most commonly used word.

Many folks weighed in via Twitter. Ben Jealous of the NAACP said he was “outraged and heartbroken” over the verdict and vowed to get the Department of Justice involved. Diddy took some time out from promoting his vodka brand to Tweet “I’m hurt and mad as hell! My heart goes out to the family.” My friend Albert Butler of WURD 900AM radio here in Philly reminded us to “Set our clocks back 400 years before going to bed…”

But my favorite Tweet came from the gentleman known as The Field Negro, whose blog you should be reading if you’re not. He said “Maybe Paula Deen will cook Sunday dinner for him tomorrow!”

(I ain’t mad at Paula Deen, but that shit was funny!)

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s parents, also took to Twitter, thanking everyone for their support.

Not to be outdone, folks who believed that Zimmerman was being railroaded for killing an unarmed kid after being told to let police handle things and not get involved also weighed in. Most notably Ann Coulter, who is someone I can always count on to say the most vile shit on occasions like this. Her Tweet: “Hallelujah!”

(If you ever hear about my going to jail, it is most likely because I have, finally, decided to go to wherever Ann Coulter is, and give her the “People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award” for Lifetime Achievement.)

And my Significant Other was so angry that he nearly left the baseball game he was covering because he was to angry to stay. As I have mentioned before, he’s not just a sportswriter. He’s a sportswriter with a masters degree in African American Studies.

Certainly, a lot went on. As I was writing this, a group of African American fraternities and sororities were gathering in front of the White House in protest. Since First Lady Michelle Obama was given honorary membership to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority shortly before her husband assumed the presidency in 2009, she might have decided to join her clan.

But as I looked at my Facebook and Twitter pages, and heard people debate the verdict in the Melrose Diner, I was relieved by one thing.

I wasn’t teaching. I’m not in school. I don’t have to try and make sense of the Zimmerman Verdict  for The Children of the Corn.

Because, frankly, I couldn’t. They’d say I was full of shit. And in this case, I’d have to agree.

I mean, how can I look in the faces of my kids, kids who have already had a few interactions with the Criminal Justice system or have parents who have, and tell them that justice is equal under the law after a verdict like this?

How do I get them to tell the police what’s going on in their neighborhoods and testify in court when they look at how Rachel Jeantel was treated on the witness stand…and on social media? How do I get them to understand that if they pull out the guns that they want to carry that they’ll get 25 to life if they kill someone?

There are conversations that all parents have to have with their kids. There’s the “Don’t violate curfew” conversation. The “Learn how to clean up after yourself” conversation. And the one that occasionally gets passed off to me by friends who don’t want to deal with their kids getting their freak on, the “You can’t trust a big butt and a smile” conversation.

But for young Black men, there’s a few other conversations that are unique to their experience. Conversations like the “Don’t put your hands in your pockets when you’re standing in front of the Police” conversation. The “Make sure you have all of your ID where the officer can see it” conversation. The “Don’t argue with the Police” conversation…

However, the Zimmerman Verdict gives us one more mandatory conversation to have.

The “Your life as a Black man isn’t worth a plug nickel to folks so act accordingly” conversation.

When Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was playing for the Atlanta Falcons, he was arrested, tried and convicted for having a dogfighting ring and brutally disposing of the losers. He spent two years in federal prison for his crime.

A woman named Marissa Alexander is doing 20 years in a Florida prison for firing a warning shot_—not hitting him, just firing a warning shot—at her abusive ex-husband. She wasn’t allowed to use Stand Your Ground despite having a credible threat posed to her.

But you can shoot a young, Black man for being “perceived” as a threat to you, and walk out of court a free man.

How do I explain that to a group of people who have already been thrown away at least once? How do my friends who are parents figure that out? And why, for that matter, do we have to?

My friend Tracy sent out a Tweet saying that calling Zimmerman, who copped to no Latino heritage until he shot Trayvon Martin, a Hispanic man and asking when all of the talk about the role race plays in stuff like this was going to stop.

I told her that it would stop when my kids could walk down the street with a hooded sweatshirt pulled over their head, and be assumed to be shooting hoops, not guns.

And that day, was not Saturday. July 13.

Real. Clear. Politics.

Does this look like the place for politics?

If you’ve followed this blog at all you know that I love politics and all things politics.

But while politics is my favorite contact sport, I also know that there are places, things and events that politics just should not touch. I don’t like the fact that we have elected school boards. I think that things like health care should have no political contact.

And so should things like natural disasters, bombings and other things that cause mass carnage. Will someone try and make political hay of these things eventually? Yes. But should that hay be made within days of their occurrence? No. In fact, Hell No!

I bring this up in light of some of the things that have shown up on my Facebook timeline, my Twitter feed, and other social media spots regarding Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing. While I understand that for some of us every day is Politics Day, when it comes to this incident and making political hay right now, I think that Susan from Sesame Street says it best…

From the moment that my I-Phone started going off with alerts about the bombing to the moment that the television set in my dentist’s office switched from the Katie Couric Show, a show that illustrates just how little the host has grown as an interviewer since her Today Show days, to coverage of the bombing, I hoped that we would have a few days, maybe a week, before the personal switched to the political.

Folks didn’t even wait for President Barack Obama to address the nation before they got started.

My fellow travelers at Salon, Mediaite and Gawker were kind enough to compile the best of the worst responses to the tragedy. Here are some samples:

For starters, let’s go with Fox News contributor Erik Rush, who has probably figured out that nothing goes away on the Internet, even when you delete it: 

“Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon! #bostonmarathon,” 

When asked if he was already blaming Muslims for this despite the investigation being in it infancy, Rush responded  “Yes, they’re evil. Kill them all.”

Not to be outdone, Alex Jones, maintainer of the blog InfoWars, tried to say that the bombing was an inside job designed to lead to the “TSA groping you at sporting events soon…”, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney asserted that it was actually a Boston PD bomb squad drill gone horribly awry, and we’re not even going to get into Bill O’Reilly’s Nazi comparison or the fact that people are trying to make a buck off of this in the form of t-shirts and other merchandise.

After seeing this kind of stuff all day, I took to my Facebook page and put up the following:

While most everyone has shown restraint and not politicized the Boston Marathon attacks, there have been some folks that can’t help themselves showing their behinds on my timeline.
For them, I have this:
Stop it. Stop it now. Now isn’t the time.

I got a response from one of my friends on the right who said that now was exactly the time because, and I quote, “the country’s lack of leadership has been exposed. Harshly.”

Now, I could have said the same thing on Sept. 11, 2001 when the man who was president at the time was sitting in a Florida classroom reading the book My Pet Goat and looking right stupid, but I didn’t. That wasn’t the time. Thousands were dead. Hundreds were injured. People were mourning. People were in pain. If it’s between politics and people, my usually acerbic wit takes a backseat to my “Do you need a hug?” impulse.

So this was my response:

People are mourning. Folks have literally run their last fucking marathon because their legs have been blown off.
And you think that it’s time for us to start thinking about 2014?! Really?!
If someone had tried to politicize Sept. 11 when it happened, my status would be exactly the same. I may not have agreed with the folks running my government, but when it’s between people and politics, people are gonna win every time with me.
So I repeat…
This. Is. Not. The. Time.

What I’m starting to notice is that when there’s a tragedy like this, the toxicity of our politics really shines through. We’ve become so ready to search for scalps, come up with hackneyed theories and look for an “other” to blame at times like these, that little things like facts tend to fall by the wayside…just ask the New York Post, which had 12 people dead (it was actually only three) and an Arab man arrested. (He wasn’t.)

Unfortunately, compassion takes a backseat too. 

So, while I understand that some of you can’t help yourselves, ask yourself what you’d say to this person if you saw….

Her….
Or better yet, his Mom….

Adult Education

                         

One of the things I’ve found myself saying to people of late is that while the First Amendment guarantees your freedom of speech, it doesn’t give you a license to say whatever wackadoodle thing that pops into your head.

It also doesn’t give you permission to talk as loudly as possible about things that are really no one’s business but yours for hours at a time despite the entreaties of others that you Shut. The. Hell. Up.

But while I’ve said that to people, I’ve never written about it until now. In fact, if it weren’t for something that happened to me yesterday, I probably never would have written about it.

However, I feel compelled to do it now and as this posting goes on, you’ll understand why a clip of a show from the man who is singlehandedly keeping the DNA testing industry in business, Maury Povich, is relevant.

When I’m not sharing my thoughts on all things political as Your Mad (political) Scientist, I find myself in a classroom in an alternative high school here in Philadelphia teaching Media Arts.

The kids I teach are kids aged 16-22 who have either dropped out or have been asked to leave most of the other schools they’ve tried to attend. For some, the impetus to leave came from the discovery that they were about to have a kid of their own. Others had to leave due to one of the hazards that come with a career in what I call Street Corner Pharmacy: a date with the Criminal Justice System.

Others just left because they felt that a regular school was too constricting because in order to do well you’re required to come in every day and it’s a population of kids that with very few exceptions is African American.

They’re a challenging group because they’re largely raising themselves. And when you’re raising yourself, you kind of feel like no one can tell you anything. Most of them have parents who weren’t too much older than they are now when they were born. Many of them are on their third or fourth foster home. Others have been on the streets since they were old enough to walk.

Because of that, the phrase I hear most commonly is “I’m grown! You can’t tell me nothing!” I also get a lot of lectures from them about how I have to be respectful to them despite the fact that they often come into my class and talk nonstop while I’m trying to present a lesson.

But despite their best efforts to run me out of the building, something that several of them have admitted to me since, they’ve found that the only person more stubborn than they are in some cases is, well, Ms. Clay. Occasionally, I’ll hear a student tell a classmate “Don’t mess with Ms. Clay! She’s not trying to hear it!”

(That makes me smile by the way…)

Anyway, among the things I try and get across to them is that you can tell what’s going on in a particular society by the looking at the art it produces. I also try to get across to them that how they’re perceived by the larger society is directly connected to the face they put forth to the world through the prism of media.

The Bad Girls Club: notice the paddle…

I often tell them that the reason why folks clutch their purses a little tighter when they get on the bus, or would rather not sit next to them when they get on the subway is because they present themselves in a light that is far less than complimentary.

So as a means of self-exploration, I gave my kids the choice of two assignments for their final project in my Media Arts class: they could either do a documentary on anything they were interested in taking a long-form look at or do a photo essay of 6 to 8 pictures that took a look at a day in their lives. I was hoping through this essay that they would take a look at their everyday lives and maybe see what was good, bad, or needed changing.

So, I figured that because it was a high school Media Arts assignment common sense would prevail.

That hope was smashed against the wall when one of my students wanted to include a picture of someone having sex “doggy style” as part of her final project. After I got a look at the picture, I said “NO! You cannot include this!”

Her response: “Don’t judge me Ms. Clay! This is what I like to do!”

I wasn’t judging. I just didn’t want to see it.

And I really didn’t want to hear the conversation that came next….a conversation that included such things as how much “dick” someone was going to get over the Thanksgiving holiday, a story from one of my kids about how her lesbian lover “sucked her ass” and made her reach orgasm, the various sex toys lesbians use, how a kid’s naked mother came busting into the room where she and her boyfriend were having sex and said that if things didn’t quiet down that she was going to join the party, and, and this is my personal favorite, how having braces can be an impediment to having good oral sex.

Don’t laugh…you see these in Philly all the time…

And this was just in the first three minutes of this conversation and despite my constant interruptions of  “Could you please stop this?!” followed closely by “Could y’all shut up and leave my room please?!”

After they left, I relished the quiet.

I also wanted to go home and take a shower because I felt so sexually violated.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude or anything. But I couldn’t help but think that these kids were having this conversation in front of a teacher.

A teacher.

Someone who is technically an adult.

Now I’ve had Klansmen say some pretty vile things to me, but this conversation yesterday just made me want to cover my ears like a little kid and go “lalalalala”.

And why in the world would you think that it’s proper to share the disadvantage posed by braces when performing fellatio in your high school Media Arts class?

I guess it’s because we have largely become a TMI society. Thanks to folks like Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil, the Bad Girls Club, and Shaunie O’Neal’s “League of Extraordinary Jump-Offs”, otherwise known as the “Basketball Wives”, the perception is that we can and should share every aspect of our lives.

The League of Extraordinary Jump Offs…

I mean hey, that’s why the camera phone was invented, right? I know that my goal in life is to wind up on World Star Hip-Hop…

(Actually, it isn’t. But folks Sarcasm Meters are still a little off post-election…)

In any case, when I walked into class this morning, still reeling from getting taught some serious sex ed. from a bunch of kids yesterday, I said the following to my students:

“I’m letting you know right now, if anyone even mouths the word “pussy” and “cat” doesn’t immediately follow it, you’re getting suspended!”

Like I said earlier in this piece, one of the problems that these kids have is the fact that they’re largely raising themselves and when you’re raising yourself, you see yourself as the adult, something that can cause a problem or two.

It also means that the adults that are supposed to be your role models are more like the Bad Girls. Or the League of Extraordinary Jump-Offs. Or the Drug Man on the corner. Or that much older man (or in some cases woman) who has introduced you to a sexual world that there’s no way you can understand or successfully negotiate at your age…even if you think you’re grown.

But it’s not always as bleak as yesterday felt. I do have my victories.

For example, there’s one kid in my class that’s either walking into my class late and being really disruptive (meaning that he wasn’t able to connect with the weed man that morning) or is totally mellowed out (meaning that said weed has been acquired.) One day, an obvious Day Without Weed, he did the whole manic thing.

I told him, forcefully, to sit down. His response was “My Mom don’t talk to me like that!”

My response: “Well maybe if she did, you wouldn’t be doing this mess!”

I haven’t had much of a problem in this regard since. I guess it’s because every kid is looking for someone to set a boundary. My colleagues are much better than I at that, but I’m getting there.

However, I’m feeling really burned out.

So I’m going to make as much of a difference as I can until that happens because as I said, many of these kids have kids….
                                   ….and I’d like for them to have the chance their parents didn’t necessarily get.

The "People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face" awards…

I think that this would make a good trophy, don’t you?

Because I know myself better than anyone, I decided a long time ago that I’d never buy myself a gun.

Why? Because my Jackass Tolerance has whittled down to nothing over the last 47 years and I may decide to bust a cap in a jackass when I come across one. Seeing that as a reporter I come across jackasses often, I’d probably be considered a serial killer if given a proper firearm.

But while being a reporter means that I come across jackasses often, the Torrent of Jackass has been more like a flood of late.

Between the battle over birth control, something that I thought we all had settled already, to Voter ID laws, to the very existence of Rick Santorum and the recent reminder that we all got that it’s still not safe to be a young Black man armed with a pack of Skittles in this country, I’m awash in jackasses.

But since I don’t have a gun, and for the reasons I’ve mentioned above it’s probably a good thing, the only course of action that I could see myself taking if I ran across any of the jackasses that have littered my path of late is to do what the gentleman pictured above, Muhammad Ali, was really, really good at.

In his heyday, Ali was probably one of the best at Punching People In The Face.

Now I understand that punching people in the face when you’re not in a boxing ring is illegal. And I also realize that many of the people who most deserve to be punched in the face for their actions of late have very large people that they pay for (or in the case of our elected officials, we pay for) to protect them from having folks like me walk up and, well, punch them in the face.

But if I knew that I could punch someone in the face, and not go to jail or get busted up for it, there’s a whole line of people that I’d love to take a swing at because of their special brand of red-hot ignorance… So it is in that vein that I would like to announce the inaugural People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards.

Before we start, some caveats: First of all, the People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards are not literal. I do not now, or will ever, encourage anyone to punch any of these people in the face. This is a metaphoric designation. Secondly, this is non-partisan. There are going to be people of all political stripes deserving of a (metaphoric) punch in the face as this goes on.

And thirdly, I don’t think that I should be the only one having fun with this. If you know someone who deserves a People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face designation, let me know. The Mad (political) Scientist Facebook Page will be up and running soon, so you can put your recommendations either here, on the blog, or on that page.

So now, without further ado, here is the first group of People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards….


Because I believe that charity begins at home, the first of this week’s People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

In all honesty, I didn’t know whether to nominate Gov. Corbett for his championing and signing the voter ID law that I talked about in a previous posting or for cutting education funding to the bone while allowing the Marcellus Shale drillers to make our water undrinkable for practically nothing.

But at a news conference in which he talked about how happy he was to sign a voter ID law that was totally unnecessary, Gov. Corbett was asked about yet another one of those Really Bad Ideas That Will Probably Become Law In Pennsylvania, a trans-vaginal ultrasound law.

Under this law, which has been passed in other connotations in places like Virginia, women would be forced to submit to an ultrasound featuring an internal probe before having an abortion. This is on top of the 24-hour waiting period that women are already forced to go through in Pennsylvania to obtain an abortion. His response made me say…”Wow! He should be Punched In The Face!

I sometimes wonder if the guys who come up with these laws have kids…and if so, if any of these kids are female. If you’re a dude who has female children and you can come up with some nonsense like this, I have to question how you can look these female children in the face without at least apologizing to them.

But then again, some of the most heinous of these laws that seek to take away reproductive choice have, believe it or not, been proposed by women. So what do I know?

The next recipient of a People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award is another person taking on the same topic: the reproductive freedom of the women in his state.

This entry comes from Georgia and it’s from the fevered mind of Rep. Terry England. Rep. England has proposed a bill that would make women who have been informed that their child will be stillborn carry the fetus to term and deliver it naturally instead of being allowed the more humane choice of having it removed.

Now we could talk about how doing that would lead to the mother possibly dying because carrying a dead body inside of you for any length of time has to be harmful. But in the mind of this Person Who Really Needs To Be Punched In The Face, it should be okay.

I mean, livestock do it all of the time…

So let’s review: Women with stillborn children should be forced to carry those children to term because hey, chickens and cows do it…so why can’t they?

As Forrest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does…”

But as Your Mad (political) Scientist Says, somebody needs to be Punched In The Face…


Last but not least, my last People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award “winner” is another one of those examples of why you don’t have to worry about Your Mad (political) Scientist moving anywhere below the Mason/Dixon Line.

You see, while Pennsylvania has passed some really stupid laws based on some really bad ideas, most of those really, really bad ideas have come from the American South. Among those laws is a law that allows folks to, well, be able to shoot first and ask questions never if they feel threatened by someone. Notice I say “feel threatened”. This person doesn’t actually have to do anything to you.

And it is a manifestation of what happened when one of these laws was followed in Florida that leads to my making George Zimmerman and the Sanford, Fla. Police Department the last of my  People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face.

You probably know the story now. On Feb. 24, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin walked to a convenience store in Sanford to get a pack of Skittles for his little brother and an iced tea for himself. As he walked down the street with his hoodie over his head, town watch person George Zimmerman observed Trayvon as he was “walking around, looking about”.

By the end of the night, Trayvon was dead by the hand of Zimmerman, who had been the subject of a complaint from other residents regarding his Town Watch approach. He had called Sanford police when he first saw Trayvon…and the police told him not to get out of the car. But Zimmerman not only followed Trayvon around, but he got out of the car, fought with him, and later shot him.

Just in case you want to hear the 9-1-1 tapes connected to this incident, here they are:

My favorite part of the whole thing: when Zimmerman says “The assholes always get away…”

Now you have stalking. You have a guy shooting an unarmed kid. You have a guy disobeying a direct order from police. So tell me again why Zimmerman isn’t occupying a cell in Administrative Detention (where they put inmates that would get beaten to death in General Population) in Sanford?

Because the Sanford Police don’t think that Zimmerman has done anything wrong. They say that he’s a good guy and that this is a clean shoot.

Shenanigans! Shenanigans, big time!

Now I understand that Zimmerman has moved from his home and isn’t taking calls because people are threatening him behind Trayvon’s death. While I don’t think that’s cool, I also don’t think it’s cool that he’s walking around after shooting a 17-year-old armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.

Notice that I haven’t even brought up the whole White Man/Black Kid thing…

But it’s kind of the reason why I hope the Department of Justice takes a look at this. It’s obvious to me that if we’re waiting for the Sanford Police to do something, we’re gonna have a long wait. Maybe the Justice Department will move a little faster. Or at all. That seems like the only way that the Martin family will get justice…

And that, ladies and gentlemen, ends this week’s People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Awards.

Hope that you had as much fun as I did picking the winners! Remember: you can leave your own nominations on the blog here or on our Facebook page once it’s up and running. Thank you and Goodnight!

Letter from a Philadelphia Jail…

My friend Vince, working to get out the vote…

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t lead off my column with a picture of one of my friends.

But in this case, leading off with a picture of my friend Vincent Thompson makes sense because in the 20-plus years that I’ve known him, I’ve never heard of any issue that he’s felt passionately enough about to commit an act of civil disobedience.

Now what issue has made my friend, a Democratic committee person in South Philadelphia, willing to go all the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on us?

The right to vote in Pennsylvania.

I’ll explain.

As I often say here at The Mad (political) Scientist, I love Philadephia, but Pennsylvania makes me scratch my head so hard sometimes that I’m surprised I haven’t scraped up some of my brain.

A big part of that is because I’ve never seen a state so willing to take on everyone else’s really, really bad ideas. If there’s an idea that shouldn’t be tried anywhere ranging from hyper-restrictive abortion laws to lawsuits filed to fight for your right to not have health insurance (this chestnut filed by our former Attorney General, now Governor Tom Corbett), we’re not only going to try it here, but we’re going to follow the True Definition Of Insanity when we apply it.

(For those of you who don’t know what the True Definition of Insanity is, it’s doing the same thing, the exact same way, and yet expecting a different result.)

This week’s Really Bad Idea That Will Soon Become Law In Pennsylvania is the Commonwealth’s new Voter ID law. Under this law, which is modeled after Voter ID laws in places even more backward than Pennsylvania like Texas, Indiana and Alabama, people who come out to the polls will not be able to vote…and have their votes counted that day…unless they produce a state-sanctioned photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a state ID card. Now you can vote if you don’t have a state-sponsored ID, but that vote won’t count unless you come to your county’s Board of Elections with a state-sponsored picture ID within six days.

The reason why this law is on its way to being put on the books is because Gov. Corbett, like most good Republicans these days, believes that there’s serious voter fraud going on. Otherwise, how else would a Black Man From Chicago With A Funny Name have ever become President Of The United States?

The only way that Barack Obama could have succeeded in becoming the first Kenyan-born, Secret Muslim, Manchurian Candidate Sent To Ruin America to become President is by people going to the polls and impersonating other people, voting, and influencing the outcome. Or at least, that’s the logic at work here.

The Commonwealth has pledged $4 million to implement this law, including $1 million that’s supposed to go toward getting people these state-sponsored IDs.

(Now, we could talk about how Philadelphia alone will burn through this $1 million in a week, and also about how I really wish that people cared enough about voting to want to go around committing identity fraud in order to do it, but I would be bringing logic into a situation that has, thus far, steadfastly resisted it….and Lord knows that we can’t have that!)

Needless to say, folks are losing their minds over this.

The American Association of Retired Persons, otherwise know as AARP, is saying that it’s going to make it harder for senior citizens, some of whom may have been born in a house and don’t have the birth certificate needed to get the ID. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, otherwise known as the NAACP, is saying that this is designed to keep people of color out of the voting booth, just in time for the November elections. And the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, says it’s just plain unconstitutional.

Even the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, a group that’s notorious for not even  being able to agree on what to have for lunch during a meeting, have agreed that the law is a very bad idea.

Add to this that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to get anything like a birth certificate or state ID request processed quickly in Pennsylvania and that this Really Bad Idea That’s About To Become Law In Pennsylvania won’t officially take effect until November (just in time for the 2012 Presidential Elections if you’re keeping score at home), and you might understand why these groups are sounding the alarm.

From the moment that these laws started dotting the national landscape, or put more succinctly, dotting the landscape in places where Republicans control all phases of government, it’s been kind of hard not to notice at where they’re aimed.

Statistically, cities, college towns, and other places similar to this are places where state-sponsored ID isn’t necessarily the Coin of the Realm. In fact, when I cast my first vote in my South Philadelphia polling place, the only ID I needed was a copy of my electric bill to prove that I lived where I said I lived.

But since cities, college towns, and other places similar to these came out in droves for President Obama during the 2008 elections and turned states like Pennsylvania so blue that they could be mistaken for the Atlantic Ocean, folks have decided to put the clamps down.

Now let’s be honest here. These laws aren’t as much about voter fraud as they are about voter suppression. If you keep city dwellers, people who are older, younger, and poorer from accessing the polls however possible, you keep them from voting against the interests of the True Elites, which have been trying to get their country back since the G.I. Bill was passed after World War II, giving everyone a shot at a good education.

And don’t even get me started on how dangerous it is to allow other disenfranchised groups like people of color to vote. Hell, they may vote to allow such things as letting gays and lesbians get married if they’re allowed to stay in the voting pool…and Lord knows we can’t have that!

To it’s credit, the Department of Justice has noticed, and has struck a few of these laws down. In fact, Texas’s went down via the DOJ on Monday. Also, a local coalition here in Philadelphia that includes the National Action Network, NAACP,  Radio One, a voting rights group called the Committee of Seventy, labor unions and politicians has formed to make sure that this law doesn’t pack the punch that it could.
Among the people who are a part of this coalition is my friend Vincent.  

Upon hearing about this law, and how folks could end up not being allowed to exercise the franchise, Vince, who is still the best political reporter I know despite not having done it full-time for a while, got the kind of pissed off that I’ve only seen him get when you mess with his family.  We must have talked about the Voter ID for at least two hours over dinner at the Broad Street Diner one night.  He had been watching the debate over the bill throughout the day on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, the Commonwealth’s version of C-Span.

The more he watched, the madder he got.

So he made a decision. If someone came to his polling place without a photo ID, he’d not only make sure that they got to polls, but he’d also make sure that their vote counted that day.

“I come from a people whose ancestors got water hoses turned on them, dogs sicced on them, and in some cases got murdered to give me the right to vote,” he said. “Black people have only had the right to vote for real for 40 years. I’m not going to let anyone get disenfranchised by a law that’s a solution in search of a problem.”

Then he said, “I’m willing to go to jail over this. This is about the right to vote. That’s too important to me.”

Hopefully, it won’t come down to that.

But just in case it does, I’m officially announcing the Vincent E. Thompson Bail Fund right now…

……because friends don’t let friends stay in jail overnight for fighting as the ancestors taught us…