I have a 17-year-old son. He’s white, not black. Thus, he is less likely to get shot to death  in America.

Yet another African-American kid, this one also 17 years old, was killed in Florida, home of Trayvon Martin. And home of a very cruel experiment with a law savagely called, “Stand Your Ground.”

Here is a picture of the man accused of murdering the latest teenager, Jordan Davis, on Black Friday in November:

Take a good look at 45-year-old Michael Dunn. Around here where I live, he could be a neighbor, or, God forbid, a friend or a relative. Dunn, who lives in Satellite Beach, was in Jacksonville for his son’s wedding. He was on his way back to his hotel, with his girlfriend, when they stopped at a convenience store to get a bottle of wine.

Here’s how one television station reported the relevant facts:

Jordan Davis, 17, and some other teens were sitting in a SUV in a parking lot when Dunn parked next to them and asked the youths to turn down their music.

Jordan Davis and Dunn argued over the music, then Dunn, who is a gun collector, pulled a gun and shot eight or nine times, hitting Jordan twice, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Jordan Davis’ father Ron Davis said his unarmed son died in the arms of a friend in the SUV.

It was Ron Davis who appeared, along with his son’s mother, Lucia McBath, on Lawrence O’Donnell’s Last Word last night.  There was obvious anguish. There was restrained outrage that television often produces.

The boy was listening to music. Perhaps the music was too loud. Perhaps it was offensive. Perhaps the teens acted rudely. But was the music so loud and so offensive that an allegedly rude teenager deserved the death penalty? Huh?

Even though police found no weapons in the SUV Jordan Davis was in, Michael Dunn, through his lawyer, will argue—is arguing—that he saw, “a shotgun coming over the rim of the SUV,” and “he knows a shotgun when he sees one because he got his first gun as a gift from his grandparents when he was in third grade.”

Is that when this madness starts? Third grade?

God, help us.


Afraid: The GOP War On Voting

I heard a conservative say on Sunday how “admirable” it was for folks to be willing to stand in line for six or seven hours to vote in Florida.

This morning I heard someone on the IQ-crippling morning show on Fox say essentially the same thing. How “dedicated” must those voters be.

All of us with a brain not poisoned by Fox “News” understand that what is going on in Florida and Ohio and elsewhere, in terms of how Republicans have intentionally made it more difficult for people, mostly Democratic people, to vote, would be a famous Fox-fueled scandal if it were reversed.

If Democrats were deliberately limiting or suppressing the voting opportunities of, say, white evangelicals, Fox hosts and guests—including Mitt Romney—would not be disingenuously fawning over those “dedicated” conservative Christians and their willingness to commit half a day—or night—to exercising their right to vote.

No, every minute of Fox broadcast time would be spent on how unpatriotic Democrats are to treat the voting process so shabbily, so self-servingly. “Our brave troops fought and died for that right!” they would sanctimoniously shout. They would demand the Justice Department put a stop to it. Hell, they would beseech GOP Jesus to send down a holy bolt of lightning to fry the oppressors.

The Joplin Globe, on Sunday, editorialized about voting, and offered quotes from famous Americans, including this one from John Kennedy:

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

In an editorial about the importance of voting, the Joplin Globe had nothing to say about how “afraid” Republicans are of letting “people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market.” Nothing to say.

♦ Nothing to say about Republicans in Ohio, particularly the secretary of state, who has done everything he can to make it more difficult to vote than it was four years ago, including his latest move, which may even be illegal, to give local election officials the power to invalidate ballots. (There will be a court fight on Monday, if nothing is resolved.)

♦ Nothing to say about onerous voter ID laws, which, as a Pennsylvania Republican stupidly but fortunately admitted, were designed to deliver the election to the Republican presidential candidate.

♦ Nothing to say about right-wing groups like True the Vote—founded just after Mr. Obama took office—whose real goal is to intimidate or delegitimize minority and young voters. Read this article by The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and cringe at the inquisition-like tactics being used by Republicans—lily white Republicans—against people of color who have voted all their adult lives. (Local inquisitors like Republican honcho John Putnam are using True the Vote tactics here in Southwest Missouri, for God’s sake, a place where Democrats usually poll about 35%.)

♦ Nothing to say about what has been happening in Florida, the lines, the chaos and confusion, the suppression. Republicans there deliberately cut back early voting days, including the Sunday before election day, typically a strong day of voting by African-American voters. And the former Republican governor of that state, Charlie Christ, criticized the current Republican governor for refusing to extend early voting hours, as folks waited a ridiculously long time to vote:

The only thing that makes any sense as to why this is happening and being done is voter suppression. That’s unconscionable. I think it’s just the wrong thing to do. And the right thing to do would be to sign an executive order to make sure this doesn’t happen and you expand the hours.

As one voter there, who waited in line for almost two hours, said:

This is America, not a third-world country.

She forgot, I guess, that since 2010, Florida has been living under Tea Party governance, third-world or otherwise.

All of the disgusting Republican tactics are ostensibly designed to address voter fraud, a problem that doesn’t exist in the form that things like voter ID laws and registration inquisitions would help fix. The New Yorker article quoted a public-policy professor at Rutgers, who said,

It makes no sense for individual voters to impersonate someone. It’s like committing a felony at the police station, with virtually no chance of affecting the election outcome.

Thus, it makes no legal sense that Republicans would spend so much time and effort to attack a problem that is not a problem, but it does make political sense. Again, as John Kennedy would certainly say today, if he were around to witness what Fox “News” and the Joplin Globe and even much of the national press refuse to witness, is that Republicans, who have embraced extremism wholesale, truly are “afraid” to allow people to “judge the truth and falsehood in an open market.

Because when it comes down to it, the conservative spirit, which animates Republican politics today, is and always has been afraid of We the People.


Purging Their Way To The White’s House

Whatever one thinks of their strategy to invent a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist, one has to acknowledge that Republicans these days have balls the size of Rush Limbaugh’s slandering mouth.

Today’s right-wingers just don’t give a damn what the mainstream press—or the Justice Department—says about them or their people-purging, anti-voter strategy. By God, they have an election to win!

From HuffPo:

Florida will defy a federal warning to stop purging people the state suspects aren’t U.S. citizens from voter registration rolls.

The whole idea in Florida, as in other states where Republicans enjoy legislative dominance, is, by hook or by crook, to purge enough voters—obviously overwhelmingly Democratic voters—to give Romney an electoral edge so as to ensure Obama’s defeat this November and make the White’s House white again.

Here are just two examples of the egregiousness in Florida:

In Broward County, a 91-year-old World War II veteran was forced to provide proof of his citizenship in order to remain on the voter rolls. And in Seminole County, an election official tweeted a picture of himself with one man who received a warning letter. In the picture, the two men stood side by side, holding the suspect voter’s U.S. passport.

Now, as I said, Republicans have been doing this stuff all over the country, but given how important Florida is to the outcome of November’s presidential election, Republicans in that state have perhaps been the most creative and tenacious in supressing Democratic votes.

Besides the purging of legitimate voters, another of those creative attempts recently ran into problems:

(CBS News) A Federal District judge in Florida placed a preliminary injunction on new Florida voter registration requirements on third-party organizations, calling parts of the law “onerous.”

The judge in that case labeled as “risky business” anyone who might undertake to register voters under Florida’s new rules. The risk partly involves “substantial penalties for noncompliance,” for not meeting a ridiculous 48 hour deadline for submitting any and all voter applications collected. The judge said,

If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed.

Of course, that is precisely the goal of the legislators who concocted this scheme and the governor who signed it into law.

The new act also requires those who merely solicit folks to register to vote—not actually collecting any applications—to identify themselves to the state. As the judge said,

Soliciting an application is core First Amendment speech.

In other words, in order to exercise your core First Amendment rights in Florida, you have to first register with the state an tell ’em who you are! Awesome!

Republicans obviously want as few people going to the polls as possible, particularly the kind of people who have pigmentation that might suggest Democratic Party sympathies. The GOP has decided that suppressing the opposition’s voters is better than trying to win those voters over by proposing policies that might attract them.

Thankfully, there are a few courts left that are willing to see this suppression for what it is. And as for the matter of arbitrarily purging people from the voter rolls, hopefully the Justice Department will not stand for Florida ignoring its warning.

Who could have guessed that after all the time that has passed since we got our act together over voting rights, that we would be fighting folks who want to turn back the clock.

But this contemporary GOP is a turn-back-the-clock party, from the economy to health care reform to environmental protection to education to women’s rights to voting rights, the Republican Party sees our future in the failed ways of the past.

“I Don’t Hear Him Yelling Anymore”

I heard someone crying — not boo-hoo crying, but scared or terrified or hurt maybe. To me, it was a child.”

Mary Cutcher, a resident in the Florida community where 17-year old Trayvon Martin was killed as he cried for help

y youngest son is almost seventeen years old.

I have followed the case of Trayvon Martin since it first broke. He was a seventeen-year-old African-American who during halftime of the NBA All-Star game reportedly went to the store to get his brother some candy. Armed with nothing more than a bag of Skittles, he was shot dead—just yards from his father’s home—by a “neighborhood watch” freak with a gun, a freak who is free to carry his 9 millimeter pistol legally here in twenty-first century America, blessed as we are to have a conservative Supreme Court majority with its feet firmly planted in the Old West.

And, so far, the gun-toting 250-pound faux-vigilante who shot and killed 140-pound Trayvon Martin is being partially protected by a bizarre state law—”Stand Your Ground“—in an increasingly bizarre state—Florida.

This case is hard for me to write about, and honestly I have been thinking, since the story became national news, that there would be some facts come out that would make it more understandable, more digestible.

But the more I learn about the case the more incomprehensible it becomes.

My  teenage son, who is as white as snow, may eventually find fate an unkind companion, but he will never face the fate that awaited Trayvon Martin—who was guilty of nothing but being black.  And although there are pathologies strewn throughout American communities of all colors and persuasions, a persistent pathology has plagued America since its founding, a pathology of racism rooted in our history of slavery, the demons of which torment us to this day.

Thankfully,  Lawrence O’Donnell did two excellent segments Monday night on the issue, and I implore all to watch the segments below, especially those comfortable whites* who think that the America white people see is one and the same America that black people see:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

* George Zimmerman, the faux-vigilante who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, was apparently described by police as “white,” even though his family “says he is Hispanic and is not racist.” The point here, though, is that many white people believe that all is right with America on the racial front, especially since 53% of us voted for Barack Obama. But all is not right—not yet.

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