Briefly, on the Zimmerman Trial

First off, I was surprised how quickly this incident became political. One citizen shoots another one, they don’t know each other, and instantly the right and left take sides. What political gain is there, really (potential answer below)?

Racism: It’s suggested by the 911 tapes that Zimmerman muttered “f*&king coons”. This may be relevant in regard to hate crimes law, especially if Zimmerman is found guilty. But it’s never been the crux of the case for me.

Martin’s Past: The defense (and again, bizarrely, the political right) was really trying to smear Trayvon, saying he was a bad kid, did drugs, thought himself ‘gangsta’, etc…. As the judge rightly pointed out, this is completely irrelevant. Zimmerman didn’t know who Trayvon was (hence his suspicion); Trayvon could have been Charles Manson or Mother Theresa. It in no way influenced Zimmerman’s thinking. Maybe (per the racism thinking) he assumed Trayvon was ‘no good’ because he was black, but there’s no way any personal details about Trayvon could possibly have influenced the outcome.

Stand Your Ground: These laws are ridiculous (personal opinion), but it’s likely this issue, because of its direct relation to the gun safety debate, is the reason this got so political so fast. I personally think this is the simple core of the case. First, Zimmerman was told specifically NOT to follow Martin. He did anyway, confronted him, and ended up killing him. That’s not standing your ground. Second, most of the attention on this law has been solely on Zimmerman’s right to “stand your ground”. What about Martin’s? He didn’t have a gun, but from his point of view, he was walking home, and some guy he doesn’t know starts following him. This guy confronts him, with a firearm. What was Martin supposed to do? He has every reason to feel as threatened, if not more, as Zimmerman. Why can Zimmerman follow and confront someone and claim “Stand Your Ground”, but an unarmed teenager can be followed and confronted by a citizen with a firearm, and he can’t stand HIS ground? Clearly he tried, witness Zimmerman’s bloodied face. But he lost that battle.

For this reason, I think it should be a quick guilty verdict. Unfortunately, this crazy country is so polarized now, who knows what could happen.

A great Maddow segment, pointing out that one of the two parties in Washington isn’t interested in actual policy, just optics.

When the gun nuts are positioning the post-apocalyptic horror worlds of Stephen King as an example of something to aspire to, you know they’re getting a tad desperate.

A quick notation on the above. 
I’m a Red Sox fan, who lived in NYC for 12 years. I understand that this shirt is a Sox/Yanks rivalry shirt. I understand Nike pulling it out of respect, not going to talk about that.
What I will mention is the actual Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770, when British soldiers fired into an angry mob of Bostonians, killing five. Keep in mind, we weren’t yet free from British rule, yet had our sights on a declaration of independence from the crown. Here you have the enemy firing into a crowd, killing citizens. Of course there were calls to be brutal with these soldiers.
And yet, it was John Adams - who would become our 2nd President not too long after this - that stood up and defended the soldiers in a fair trial. Why? Because that’s the example they wanted to set. In Adams’ words:

The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country.

Compare that ‘disinterested’ focus on fairness and the rule of law in a time of increased passions and fear with what Jon Stewart so cleverly pointed out last night: those on the right that claim to LOVE LOVE LOVE this country and its freedoms are clamoring to abandon just about every Amendement out there (except the 2nd, of course) because, again, citizens of Boston were wrongfully killed by a few men. And the right is stirring up fear fear fear!
It’s a stark contrast. 

A quick notation on the above. 

I’m a Red Sox fan, who lived in NYC for 12 years. I understand that this shirt is a Sox/Yanks rivalry shirt. I understand Nike pulling it out of respect, not going to talk about that.

What I will mention is the actual Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770, when British soldiers fired into an angry mob of Bostonians, killing five. Keep in mind, we weren’t yet free from British rule, yet had our sights on a declaration of independence from the crown. Here you have the enemy firing into a crowd, killing citizens. Of course there were calls to be brutal with these soldiers.

And yet, it was John Adams - who would become our 2nd President not too long after this - that stood up and defended the soldiers in a fair trial. Why? Because that’s the example they wanted to set. In Adams’ words:

The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country.


Compare that ‘disinterested’ focus on fairness and the rule of law in a time of increased passions and fear with what Jon Stewart so cleverly pointed out last night: those on the right that claim to LOVE LOVE LOVE this country and its freedoms are clamoring to abandon just about every Amendement out there (except the 2nd, of course) because, again, citizens of Boston were wrongfully killed by a few men. And the right is stirring up fear fear fear!

It’s a stark contrast. 

frants:

crysomemoar:

Our ways of communication have changed, shouldn’t our 1st amendment?
text, phone, email, social media, ect.

If you take one right away and/modify it, you will start to let the government do it to all of them until you have communism.

While you’re right, our 1st Amendment hasn’t been “rewritten”, there have been centuries of laws and court cases to continue to define its meaning as the country has evolved. Amendment or not, rights are not unlimited. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, though that specific example only became relevant when there were theaters to yell “fire” in. Your rights extend only so far, up to where they begin to infringe on others’ rights.  Your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness gets no special favor over mine or anyone else’s. That’s how we all get along in a country of millions.

So yes, as technology has changed, we’ve written laws that, in their basest form, could be considered as a violation of the 1st Amendment: I can’t text or call you three times a day threatening to kill you, I can’t email you false material to trick you into sending me money for my uncle in Nigeria. You can say, “Hey, first amendement, I can threaten to kill anyone I want!” But that’s how you live on your own, not how you live within a society.

No one is seriously talking about ‘changing’ the 2nd Amendement. The discussions out there - expanding background checks, limiting extended magazines, cracking down on interstate gun trafficking, prohibiting private purchase of assault weapons, requiring liability insurance for each firearm owned - are all adapting to the evolution of the world, just as laws addressing texts and emails have for the 1st Amendement. These changes are to serve to protect my rights from being unlawfully infringed by the presumed free exercise of someone else’s rights; it’s to allow for a mature society that doesn’t destroy itself. The forefathers never considered online firearm purchase, or an ease of travel that would allow anyone to efficiently transport huge amounts of weapons across multiple state lines, or the ability to shoot 30 high-velocity rounds in the space of a minute. As the technology changes and society’s means of communication, travel, et al evolves, it’s up to us, our lawmakers, and judicial system to look at the ‘spirit’ of the law.

Even the little-referenced 3rd Amendment was more specifically defined in a Supreme Court case in 1982. Fourth Amendment cases have looked to define “search” and “seizure”. And, to reference a take where society’s need is greater than that of the individual, roadblocks have been deemed legal when searching for a fleeing criminal or bomb, but not as an indiscriminate reason to search any vehicle you like. What constitutes the 8th Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” has changed with society over the years, too.

Chief Justice Warren said in ‘58: The [Eighth] Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” That’s what we’re talking about here. You can’t always take a word’s definition (legal or otherwise) from 1789 and apply it the same way today: you have to look at what it meant then, and then discover what the spirit of that meaning is today.

The 1st Amendment says “freedom of speech”, but that doesn’t mean you can say ANYTHING ANYWHERE TO ANYONE (though you can stand in front of the White House and preach just about anything you like and not be arrested). The 2nd Amendment says “right to bear arms”, but it doesn’t mean you get ALL THE GUNS ANYTIME YOU WANT. We’re not rewriting the Bill of Rights, but you can keep the spirit of the society they aspired to create whilst still evolving the definitions of what they mean in active practice today.

(Source: facepalmfrants)

Guns have changed. Shouldn’t our gun laws?

SUVs, Guns, and Expectations

I read an article in the New Yorker back in 2004, a piece by Malcolm Gladwell called "Big and Bad". In it, Gladwell explores the curious mindset that many Americans have with what makes a car “safe”. He points out that in Europe and Japan, when you ask consumers which car is the safest, they almost always say a small car, like a Camry or a Jetta. The reason: low to the ground, light, and nimble, such cars allow you to avoid accidents. Little skidding, no roll-over, and not so heavy as to prevent a necessary swerve.

But as someone who is quoted in the article points out, the following is a mindset almost exclusive to North America:

The metric that people use is size. The bigger something is, the safer it is. In the consumer’s mind, the basic equation is, if I were to take this vehicle and drive it into this brick wall, the more metal there is in front of me the better off I’ll be.

Ask Americans which car is the safest, and they invariably choose the big ones: the Ford F150s, the Lincoln Navigators, the H2s. They figure when an accident happens, it’s safest to be up high, and with as much ‘tank’ between you and the other car as possible.

It’s an ‘active’ versus ‘passive’ outlook. Other consumers around the world hear safety and think, “How can I best avoid an accident?” Americans, on the other hand, think, “If I’m in an accident, how can I avoid getting hurt?” There’s an inevitability to it that’s a bit saddening: Americans are expecting an accident to happen. It’s coming, so be ready for it. 

The irony, as Gladwell points out, is that the big, heavy SUVs cause more accidents to begin with. They’re fulfilling their own prophecy, so to speak.

It’s what happens when a larger number of drivers conclude, consciously or otherwise, that the extra thirty feet that the TrailBlazer takes to come to a stop don’t really matter, that the tractor-trailer will hit them anyway, and that they are better off treating accidents as inevitable rather than avoidable.

I bring this up, because yesterday the NRA released its student-safety plan, entitled School Shield. Its “solutions” are pretty much what you would expect: armed guards, armed teachers, relaxing concealed carry restrictions on school grounds.

But what reminded me of the Gladwell SUV article was some of the other, architectural recommendations: replacing exterior windows and classroom door glass with bullet-proof glass, welding door hinges to their frames to make the doors harder to breach. They’re basically saying the same thing about school safety and guns that Americans say about auto safety and SUVs: “It is inevitable that a madman with an AR-15 will walk into a school and start shooting, so turn every school into a fortress to make it harder for him to do so.” It’s as if the problem is that schools make it too easy for guys with guns to breach them, not that there are bad guys with guns to begin with.

Is that the country we live in now? Where it’s considered inevitable, almost normal, to expect gunman to enter schools (or any public place) and gun down innocents? Obviously, if it is inevitable, then the only solution is to put guards everywhere and add iron plating to every single point of ingress in every single public building. That’s what “School Shield” recommends: turning a school into a shield against the inevitable.

Or, we can say that we can choose to live in a country where we don’t accept that the accident is going to happen. We can choose the small car when we decide we want safety, because when a potentially deadly situation occurs, that car allows us to control it and more likely avoid it. 

The problem isn’t that there’s an accident coming and we have to put steel around us. The problem is that we can try to avoid the accident to begin with, and we’re not.


Sometimes a mop sink is just a mop sink. Building managers and legislative staffers have sought to reassure some concerned Tennessee lawmakers that recent renovations at the state Capitol did not install special facilities for Muslims to wash their feet before praying.

Whew, that was a close one. Another win for FREEDOM!!!!!

Sometimes a mop sink is just a mop sink. Building managers and legislative staffers have sought to reassure some concerned Tennessee lawmakers that recent renovations at the state Capitol did not install special facilities for Muslims to wash their feet before praying.

Whew, that was a close one. Another win for FREEDOM!!!!!

Oh sure, people claim to want to cut spending (nevermind that 94% of the population don’t know the deficit is actually decreasing). But when asked what exactly to cut, no one wants to cut anything. In fact, it seems there are quite a few calls to increase certain spending.
What to do…
(source: Wonkblog)

Oh sure, people claim to want to cut spending (nevermind that 94% of the population don’t know the deficit is actually decreasing). But when asked what exactly to cut, no one wants to cut anything. In fact, it seems there are quite a few calls to increase certain spending.

What to do…

(source: Wonkblog)