Monday, April 30, 2012

Mind-Boggling Injustice: Another Take on Trayvon

In keeping with my blog's on-going coverage of the Trayvon Martin case, I present to you two things. 1) an article from The Root, which contains a brief post about potential perjury and/or lies by Zimmerman regarding his perceptions of Martin's age. 2) is a fantastic article written by Patricia J. Williams, professor of law at Columbia University. Most of it is a more eloquent rendition of my own thoughts, but let me post a few important portions:
Here’s the relevant text of Florida Statutes Chapter 776: “A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: … He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.” Any person who does have such reasonable apprehension is “immune from criminal prosecution and civil action.” However, this immunity is not available to one who “initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself.” Thus framed, the issues are relatively simple: Was Zimmerman’s belief that his life was in danger a reasonable one? Was his admitted pursuit of Martin “necessary to defend himself”? And did his admitted initiation of the encounter provoke use of force by Martin? These are questions of fact, now properly before a court of law.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Racism in America: The Flip-Side

The above painting is by Michael D'Antuono and is entitled "A Tale of Two Hoodies", inspired by the Trayvon Martin case, this painting symbolizes the travesty of racially profiling innocent children and how present day prejudices affect policy.

Not since the Civil Rights era has the prevalence of racism in America been more visible or more oppressive. From Arizona's SB 1070 to the Trayvon Martin case. From Abdul Arian to Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. From the Tea Party signs to the presumptive and former Republican candidates for President. From discrimination in housing, crime, entertainment, and education, to segregation and imprisonment at levels unheard of even when Black people were considered slaves. People of Color -- and not just Black people, mind you -- are suffering racism today in ways that defy conventional wisdom and morality.

Clearly, Americans can ill afford to be so naive about our country anymore. Clearly, we cannot be silent.

Thankfully, in this struggle, there are yet signs of hope. North Carolina Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks has overturned the death penalty conviction of Marcus Robinson due to racial discrimination by prosecutors who deliberately excluded Black jurors from the trial. Judge Weeks determined that Robinson will serve life imprisonment because any death sentence in light of this clear systemic racism by the prosecutor's office is unconstitutional.

Well, hallelujah. It's about time the courts recognized the rampant racism among the jury selection process, criminal prosecution and sentencing, as well as the death penalty. Read here for more information.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

VAWA: You're Doing It Wrong

VAWA is up for reauthorization in Congress and so now is the time to talk about the problems with this law, from misandry and misogyny to civil rights violations and ineffective policies. Let's start with:

"Angela Moore Parmley, PhD, of the Department of Justice put it, 'We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.'" (See here.)

Oh, but wait, there's more!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Educating Cyber-Bigots About Trayvon

Y'know, I realize I shouldn't really be reading blogs by those who promote a deep commitment to racism, but at the same time I like to know the ignorance out there in cyberspace. It prepares me for reality.

Today's lesson in racism comes to us courtesy of a blog I've frequently linked to as an example of the ethical bankruptcy of many Americans. The blogger writes about the Trayvon Martin case, this time arguing an... interesting position. Before proceeding further, I recommend ya'll check out my posts on this subject.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tarek Mehanna

I recently became aware of the sentencing of Tarek Mehanna, a Muslim-American charged with conspiring to commit terrorism as well as aiding and abetting Al Qaeda. As a Jewish-American with a deep commitment to social justice, I am torn.

I believe Mehanna has every right to hate his country for our crimes against Islamic peoples around the world, for the invasions, killings, the torture, and the myriad unforgiveable acts we'll never see on CNN or Fox News. However I also do not believe that militancy is the answer -- it's the path of vengeance, not salvation -- but I understand Mehanna's pain. I know what it feels like for your religion to be used against you, to demonize you, and allow others to hate you. Moreover, I know what it's like to watch your people suffer and die while those in power watch without compassion, and the masses continue to move in ignorance.

Adam Serwer, writing for Mother Jones, illustrates my conflict quite well and his article speaks to a lot of the issues at stake in this case: free speech, terrorism, Islamophobia, and assassination. But I'd like to share the closing statement by Tarek Mehanna himself, which is an eloquent, powerful, compassionate, and moving speech on the insanity which has gripped America these days. His story is something which must be shared, whatever you believe.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Teaching the Controversy

The phrase "teach the controversy" was originally coined by Gerald Graff, a professor of English and education at the University of Chicago "as an admonition to teach that established knowledge is not simply given as a settled matter, but that it is created in a crucible of debate and controversy."

However, to Prof. Graff's never-ending chagrin, his phrase was appropriated by Phillip E. Johnson, a major figure in the Creationist/Intelligent Design Movement who used it in order to legitimize these ideologies in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary being taught in science classes among students enrolled in public education.

Interestingly, this idea of "teaching the controversy" has become something of a Conservative talking point, whereby any point of view, no matter how extreme, bigoted, or thoroughly disproved, should be discussed with the same respect and nod of legitimacy as those which are not. Bluntly: it's putting crazy up on the podium right next sanity. For one blogger, it's putting racism up next to anti-racism and saying, "gee, why don't we talk about all these things respectably like they're both equally valid points of view." (Full disclosure & trigger warning: the blogger in the link has his own history of racism.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Frustrations of a Very Frequent Driver

Once upon a time, I was a college student and rode the SF MUNI to class. Now I'm a working stiff -- AKA professional writer -- and I drive everyday, burning fossil fuels like my peers burn Marijuana leaves. But I've been driving long before this. Been on many a road trip to the bowels of Central California, Oregon coast, Washington forests, and the Mexico border. I've crossed Black ice and dirt roads equally with never a mind to the bumps, or when my wheels locked-up. Suffice to say, I'm a damn good driver. Not a single accident. (Knock on wood!) But I sure do know a lot of bad drivers and they piss me the eff off.

Most of the time I'm a chill dude. Patient. Real easy-going even when I've got reason to be annoyed. But put me behind the wheel with someplace to be and people just acting a fool all over the road... oy vey! I snap faster than you can "crackle pop!"

So here's my ranting advice and blistering pet peeves to all the drivers out there in the universe, especially those on the 5, the 405, the 580, and the 101.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Small Poema

Others embrace the rain, but not I. It makes me a melancholic. Sunny days taste better against my skin than hard water. Yet why am I so thirsty? It must mean something, or nothing. Or everything. These droplets' suicidal tendencies...

Lately kindest voices cause the deepest hurt. I try to plug in my headphones but they've become superconductors for soft-spoken bigotry, whispering rationality based on their fake change of heart and a smile. Why do the undeserving captivate my emotions? Am I just a broken cheerleader for the underdog? They say you should never trust the ones who damn themselves. But I can't help hoping they'll change their clothes from rags to robes.

I guess we're all a part to the parcel of willful ignorance.