Monday, March 26, 2012

Weighing in on Travon Martin

I'm coming into this discussion late, but it's been bothering me that Trayvon Martin's killer is not only walking free, but also gaining supporters, at the very least about the notion that his crime was not racially-motivated.

I listened to the 911 call, and would like to parse it out.

Zimmerman: "We've had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there's a real suspicious guy. It's Retreat View Circle. The best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle."

It's relevant to the case whether or not this claim is true. Had Retreat View Circle seen a recent series of break-ins? According to CLRSearch, the area has over twice the national average risk of crimes such as larceny, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and assault. It's possible the claim of recent break-ins was true, but definitely should be verified.

Zimmerman: "This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around looking about."

I would become suspicious if the person I observed went around the back of a house, started trying to jimmy a car door, or actually took an action that merited suspicion. Walking in the rain and looking around isn't a crime and isn't suspicious. If, as has been suggested in the media, Trayvon Martin had his hood over his head, it seems a reasonable thing to do in the rain, and it seems like it would hide any indication that he was "on drugs". What, was he waving his hands in front of his face and laughing hysterically? At this point, I'm more suspiciouis of Zimmerman than anything else.

911: "Is he white, black, or Hispanic?"
Zimmerman: "He looks black."
911: "Did you see what he was wearing?"
Zimmerman: "Yeah, a dark hoodie, like a gray hoodie. He wore jeans or sweat pants and white tennis shoes. He's here now. He's just staring."

Ok, I'm sorry, but if "he's here now", how could Zimmerman not tell the difference between jeans and sweat pants? Seems Martin had to be at some distance for Zimmerman not to be able to tell.

911: "He's just walking around the area? The houses? Ok."
Zimmerman: "Now he's staring at me."

Is staring a crime? Maybe if he heard Zimmerman calling 911 on him, he was incredulous and was simply staring in amazement. It's doubtful, since it was raining and Zimmerman was in his vehicle--unless he leaves his windows down in the rain.

911: "Ok, you said that 1111 Retreat View or 111?"
Zimmerman: "That's the clubhouse."
911: "He's near the clubhouse now?"
Zimmerman: "Yeah, now he's coming toward me. He's got his hands in his waistband. And he's a black male."

So...Zimmerman was at the clubhouse? Maybe. Seems suspicious to me that if he thought this kid was on drugs and had something in his waistband, that he wouldn't move on and find safety while he waiting for police.

911: "How old would you say he is?"
Zimmerman: "He's got something on his shirt. About like his late teens."
911: "Late teens?"
Zimmerman: "Uh huh. Something's wrong with him. Yep, he's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is."

According to reports, Trayvon Martin had a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea on him.

If I'm a teenager walking alone, I'd be a bit suspicious of some adult male sitting alone, parked, staring at me, talking into his phone. Just sayin'.

911: "Let me know if he does anything, ok?"
Zimmerman: "Ok."
911: "We've got him on the wire. Just let me know if this guy does anything else."
Zimmerman: "Ok. These assholes, they always get away. When you come to the clubhouse, you come straight in and you go left. Actually, you would go past the clubhouse."

It is relevant to point out here that so far, Trayvon Martin hadn't done anything but walk, look around, and allegedly approach Zimmerman to check him out. He hadn't said anything threatening to Zimmerman, he hadn't tried to break into a home or a car, he hadn't taken anything out to smoke, hadn't pulled a gun. He was having the police called on him for walking and staring, but somehow he has been lumped into a group called "these assholes" who "always get away."

911: "So it's on the left hand side of the clubhouse?"
Zimmerman: "Yeah. You go in straight through the entrance and then you would go left. You go straight in, don't turn, and make a left. He's running."
911: "He's running? Which way is he running?"
Zimmerman: "Down toward the other entrance of the neighborhood."
911: "Ok, which entrance is that he's headed towards?"
Zimmerman: "The back entrance."

Did Trayvon Martin get close enough to George Zimmerman to figure out that he was on the phone with the police? If so, running would be justified. I'd run too. It's pure speculation, though. Still, what is not speculation is that Martin hadn't done anything wrong at this point but somehow appeared suspicious to George Zimmerman.

According to some sources, including CNN (and amplified audio I myself have heard), Zimmerman says "fucking coons" at this point in the call. If true (and I believe my own ears), Zimmerman motives appear linked to his racism. That's not surprising, considering all Trayvon Martin appeared to be doing was walking (and allegedly staring) while black.

911: "Are you following him?"
Zimmerman: "Yeah."
911: "Ok. We don't need you to do that."
Zimmerman: "Ok."

The rest of the call involves the dispatcher taking Zimmerman's name, phone number, and location. The only relevant part to the events is Zimmerman's statement that he didnt' know where the kid was because he ran. However, somehow, he was able to hunt Trayvon Martin down to confront him, which means he left the safety of his vechicle, ran after Martin, and created any possible threat to his person Martin may have presented. Florida's "no retreat" law should not apply to Zimmerman, since he made no reasonable attempt to remain safe, and made every attempt to put himself into the danger he himself perceived.

Let's look at this from a teenager's perspective--any teenager. What should a teen do if a larger man leaves his vehicle to follow him or her? Run like hell! Why would a teen not do that? For all Trayvon Martin knew, Zimmerman could have been a sexual predator or who knows what else.

Maybe Zimmerman's motives were pure paranoia and he had fanatasies of being a heroic vigilante, and his racial epithet was just a side story (although I have a hard time believing it). However, the reality is that he shot a 17-year-old after confronting him and getting into a fight he so clearly could have avoided. He had no business following Trayvon Martin, had no real reason to call 911 on him, and deserves to be arrested and charged with homocide. He was in his vehicle at the start of the call. The vehicle presumably has working locks and windows. There was no attempt on Martin's part to get into the vehicle to assualt Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin RAN from Zimmerman. How are Zimmerman's actions defensible by any stretch of the imagination?

It has sickened me in the past several days to hear people bring up the boy's suspension from school and all sorts of other things to try to justify Zimmerman's invocation of self-defense. I don't care if Trayvon Martin was a troubled teen, a poor student, a threatening football player, or any of the other things that people defending Zimmerman have made him out to be. I have been suspended from school myself. Kids screw up. Male judgment doesn't even truly develop until age 20, according to the findings of a Supreme Court case regarding the death penalty and teenagers. Nothing Trayvon Martin could have done in his young life justified Zimmerman leaving his vehicle to hunt him down and confront him, possibly assault him (I haven't heard who started the fight), then kill him. If the teenager didn't know who Zimmerman was, he would naturally have been justified in fighting for his life if the adult assaulted him--I would have.

All I know about Trayvon is that he was a son to a mother and a father who are deeply grieved to have to have losttheir son. The idea that George Zimmerman walks free after leaving his vehicle to hunt this boy down and kill him mystifies and infuriates me to no end.

Please, someone: arrest this man.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Despicable People: Rush Limbaugh

I haven't written in awhile, but some things have happened recently that have motivated me to post.

Some time ago, I helped the campaign to get rid of Michael Savage's sponsors because of what he said about autism. I listened to his show to find out who they were, then I posted them here and wrote to them individually about the horrible comments he made about autistic children and their parents, while almost in the same breath accusing parents of asthma sufferers of encouraging their children to fake it to get government funding. That campaign was somewhat effective; many radio stations dropped Savage's show, and many advertisers--some of whom were unaware that their brands were being represented during such an intolerant blowhard's program--insisted that their ads be pulled.

Fast forward to Rush Limbaugh's recent comments regarding Sandra Fluke, whom he couldn't even bother to name correctly. This young woman testified before Congress about how birth control helps with women's health issues, such as preventing ovarian cysts, but Rush, in his willful, obnoxious ignorance, demonized Ms. Fluke by saying she was having so much sex that she couldn't afford the birth control. His diarrhea of the mouth continued by calling her a slut because "we are paying for her sex" (even though the birth control would be funded by private insurance, not tax money), that she was a slut, and that she should post videos of her sexual encounters on the Internet for all of us to see. What a disgusting individual.

Limbaugh has been no stranger to disparaging women. Any women whose politics disagree with his are labeled "Feminazis". There's more, but quite frankly, I have avoided listening to his show since he was on television. Back then, I remember him calling Chelsea Clinton "the White House dog". The girl was twelve. Come on, man.

In any case, I thought about doing the same with Limbaugh as I did with Savage, but a great many people were on it before I decided to listen to his nonsense to find out who advertises on his show. I'm glad--I can't stand listening to the idiot. It's bad enough that I would go to sites as a consultant and be forced to hear his lies, bigotry, and misogyny as I worked, but to voluntarily do it... In any case, he has lost 104 advertisers, and most of his ad slots are filled with public service announcements for the time being. I truly hope this was his career-ender.

I need to take note of an objection people are making now, which was also made when I supported getting Michael Savage's advertisers to drop him: people made it about free speech, and accused me of being against freedom of speech for my condemnation and subsequent campaign on this blog. Bill Maher even went so far as to voice his objection to people "being made to disappear" when they say something offensive. I can understand why Bill would have this objection, and I agree with him on most points, but on this point, he's dead wrong. Sorry, but this issue isn't about freedom of speech. Nobody has the inherent right to be paid for speech. Everyone has the right to not have their speech inhibited by law. No one is advocating for a law getting rid of Rush Limbaugh or keeping him off the air. However, people are exercising their freedom of speech to condemn the man and persuade his corporate sponsors to drop him like a bad habit. What, are his sponsors to be forced to continue to associate their brands with his intolerance? What does it say about a company that supports this pig with their advertising dollars when they employ women who most likely use birth control themselves? Whose insurance plans include it, not to advocate their promiscuity, but to help them prevent problems like overly heavy menstruation, ovarian cysts, and other gynecological problems? And yes, birth control also prevents pregnancy; married couples ought to be able to be intimate without worrying about having more children than they want. Single women ought to be able to have sex without worrying about unintended pregnancy, as well. Without going into the sexual pressures and inequality women face in a world where men who are promiscuous are considered studs, rather than man-whores, the pregnancy and the other health issues birth control prevents actually save companies money while helping women.

To be completely fair to Bill Maher, the argument must be made that corporate sponsorship shouldn't mean that people should have to watch everything they say. So often, corporate sponsors will refuse to support a controversial or cutting edge program because they don't want their brands associated with the views expressed on them. However, television and radio entertainment are businesses, and as such, the money they receive is on the whim of those who pay. It's just reality, no matter how much it sucks in some cases. Many advertisers will support controversial shows because they get ratings--but as Maher himself said, let's not be so tolerant that we tolerate intolerance; advertisers especially shouldn't tolerate--and with their their financial influence, subsidize and perpetuate--intolerance. Limbaugh is a glaring example of it, and I, for one, am glad that many advertisers will no longer subsidize his hate speech.