Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Defenders of self defense laws shouldn't smear Trayvon Martin

A young man is walking through a neighborhood on his way home from buying a drink and snack from a nearby store. It's dark and raining. He's suddenly aware that he's being followed. He stops his conversation on his cellphone, his heart racing he asks his stalker what's going on. It's dark, but the man following him is armed, and starts to ask threatening questions. The young man realizes he's going to be attacked, and attempts to smack down his accoster, who falls to the ground hitting his head on the concrete. After a brief struggle, there's a gunshot. The stalker has pulled out his firearm and killed the young man.

Is this story an attempt to defend Trayvon Martin, the teenager shot to death by a vigilante a few weeks ago? No, staggeringly, it's actually the story being told by the vigilante's defenders. They argue that Martin attacked Zimmerman, after Zimmerman followed and confronted Martin. They say Zimmerman was in the right because Martin was able to fight back, and may have thrown the first punch.

We don't know if the story is true, but one thing is for sure: if your idea of a right to self defense is that a scared young man shouldn't be able to fight off a stalker, but a lucid stalker should be able to shoot a scared and excited young man who has managed to get the better of him, then you have a very strange idea of what self defense constitutes.

Florida has a "Stand your ground" law, a law I reluctantly support. I think, on balance, it's better that someone who has a legitimate fear of being attacked be able to use force to defend themselves, than for them to have to worry about going to prison for doing so. While it may not feel like something necessary in a civilized society, the reality is that not everyone is civilized, and the fact someone might defend themselves is itself a deterrent against those who aren't. Moreover, it's simply inhuman to say that someone scared, whose judgement is going to defined by their fear, should not be able to use the tools available to them to defend themselves.

Stand Your Ground was attacked by some because they saw it as the catalyst for Trayvon's killing. They may be right, but not in the sense they argued. Their argument is that Zimmerman thought he had a legal right to dispense justice because of that law, an argument that's almost certainly untrue. Zimmerman clearly wasn't threatened until (if he was) he took a lucid decision to involve himself in a confrontation. Trayvon clearly never got an opportunity to make a lucid decision. He felt threatened, and he (if the story above is true) stood his ground.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thoughts (political, etc)

Many progressives are demanding the head of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales after the recent massacre in Afghanistan. I'm not going to go there at this point: my problem is that - with, obviously, all due respect to the vast majority of soldiers who are able to cope with conditions in that country - it's not immediately clear whether Bales is psychotic, or someone who's exploded after extreme pressure.

My view is that training people to kill and then sending them into a country full of people who just don't like you, where a minority is even trying to kill you, while soaking you in propaganda depicting your role as heroic and worthy of unquestioning support from those very people, just... well, it seems almost inevitable that given enough people subjected to that situation, one of them would snap. And if someone engineer - by design or through negligence - a situation where such a brutal tragedy is inevitable, I would consider that person more culpable than the person who pulls the trigger.

Chances of such a person being officially identified, let alone held accountable? Zero.


I'm considering holding my nose and voting for Obama at the moment. It depends, right now, on who wins the nomination. All signs point to Romney, who may be a 1%er jerk, but is apparently no worse than Obama and so would leave me free to lodge a "You didn't get my vote Obama, you torturing, executing, jackass" vote for a third party. But there's a moderate risk that Santorum will get the nomination, and actually I believe he's one of very, very, few people on the Republican side who would actively make things worse. And interestingly in part it's because of his proposal for a war on porn that scares me.

It's not so much the subject, although actually I do strongly support the rights of consenting adults to take pictures of each other and sell the pictures and movies on the Internet. My major concern here is the indication that he would consider such a war a priority and the implicit understanding that this means Santorum would, actually, use his executive powers under existing law to impose his screwed up moral values upon the rest of us. Given that there's no suggestion he's opposed to Obama's wars on civil liberties, such a President would give us the worst of all worlds.


And on that note, would one of my conservative readers like to comment upon whether the "Right wing urges Gingrich to drop out, so that Santorum will get a clear run against Romney" thing actually makes sense? It doesn't to me. I've always seen Gingrich as coming from the semi-libertarian branch of the Republican coalition, he's definitely not theocratic, and I don't see someone who supports Gingrich the technocrat with unfortunate personal morals as being a natural Santorum supporter. In fact, I'd assume most of those people would actually consider Romney a better fit with their beliefs.

I understand that Santorum and Gingrich are both considered more "pure" than Romney, but on the left I'd argue that Glenn Greenwald and Vladimir Lenin are considered more pure than Obama - that doesn't mean if all three were running for President, and Greenwald dropped out, Lenin would pick up any of Greenwald's supporters.

So what's the deal? Are the conservative commentators who are calling for Gingrich to step down onto something I don't understand, or are they just... well, as crazy as Santorum?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Actions have consequences [note: not nice]

I prefer not to speak ill of the dead, but it would stand to reason that if, say, Bernie Madoff were to die tonight, very few people would be eulogising him. They wouldn't claim that his frauds were legitimate because they were in support of some greater goal.

And so I have to admit to feeling somewhat nauseous hearing even my fellow liberals pretend that there was anything good to say about Andrew Breitbart.

The man was a monster.

The man took down a poverty group because it had the audacity to encourage, and help, those it sought to help, to vote. ACORN ran a voter registration scheme, and after a years long smear campaign using the most liberal, but still legally correct, definition of "voter registration fraud", the right wing had failed to shut it down. Brietbart created a video designed to make it look like ACORN helped prostitution, a video that turned out to be, using deceptive editing and the removal of critical audio, 100% bogus.

The damage was done and those who needed help lost the support of a group of good, honest, people.

It might be popular with many on the right to side with the powerful against the powerless at the moment, but that doesn't make it any less evil. Breitbart was one of those who insisted on propping up the abusive against the less fortunate. Fuck him. I'm glad he's dead.