Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gunfight at the "Looked Like a Creepy Ass Cracker, F*cking Punks These Assholes Always Get Away, This N*gger is Still Following Me, You're Going to Die Tonight, Motherf*cker" Not OK Corral

I was going to title this "Gunfight at the Racial Swears Not OK Corral" but that just doesn't fully capture the mix of hilarity and sadness I have felt this week in watching way too much of the nightly George Zimmerman murder trial recaps on cable.

There has been a taste of the Old West from the beginning of this case coming to national attention, with George Zimmerman as a would-be Wyatt Earp and Trayvon Martin as Billy Clanton, the teenager who died on the streets of Tombstone, Arizona in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

True, it's hard to call it a gunfight with only one gun and one gunshot, but the way George Zimmerman describes it they each had an equal chance at it:
"I had my firearm on my right side hip. My jacket moved up and he saw it, I feel like he saw it, he looked at it, and he said, "You're going to die tonight, motherf*cker." And he reached for it. He reached like I felt his arm going down to my side. And I grabbed it, I just grabbed my firearm and shot. One time."
That's hardcore sad but the swearing is hilarious. Cable news hosts squirm with reporting words they would get fired for saying, even under the breath heard across the room at a noisy cocktail party. You see the palpable fear of losing their multi-million dollar salaries just reporting the words. Run the tape, run the tape, so I don't have to say it!

I grew up with a grandfather who religiously used bywords like "sugar" and "dognabbit" and a father who could very creatively string together swears without ever using the "N" word, the "C" word, or either of the "F" words, such as "bastard sons of bitches!" Once I was having a little trouble with the Case VAC while raking hay on a hot August day, and my grandfather came over the terrace as I was banging on the carburetor while cussing up a blue storm. No words were taken in vain, I meant every murderous one of them.

Yes, I take more after my father than my grandfather or these cable news hosts. I had a 17-year-old intern computer programmer working with me several years back who would often break out giggling while I was working with him on computer problems. It took me half the summer to realize his giggling started every time I took out my computer frustrations by swearing. I spent the rest of the summer taking unfair advantage of that fact.

Swearing has become unoriginal. I give George Zimmerman no points for saying "f*cking punks - these assholes always get away" under his breath while on the phone with the police. Nor for Trayvon Martin telling his friend who was a girl but not his girlfriend, "this n*gger is still following me." Didn't these guys know the NSA was recording all their cell phone scat?

"Creepy ass cracker" on the other hand is brilliant. That's how Trayvon Martin is reported to have described the man who the more-PC paper of record New York Times called a "white Hispanic" who was following him in his truck around a small neighborhood. Think about a guy following you like that who is talking the whole time on his cell phone, presumably about you, all the while leeringly peering over his steering wheel at you.

I should disclose that about 30 years ago, something like that happened to me. I was walking home to my apartment in Allston, my first summer in the city after growing up in small town farm country. A car began trailing me, and when a car trails someone who is walking it has to creep along real slow. I went into a 7-11, in the hope of shaking my tail, but the guy got out of the car and followed me in. I bought a candy bar and a coke (skittles and Arizona iced tea had not yet been invented) and walked out.

The man followed me out, got back in his car, and crept along about a quarter block behind me as I headed on toward the apartment I had just recently moved into. What to do? I didn't want to walk all the way home, because then the man would know exactly where I lived.

If the man had gotten out of the car it would have been go time, fight or flight. I didn't have to decide. At that point, one of my housemates appeared out of nowhere (being still several blocks from home) and spoke to the driver, who then sped off.

I don't put a lot of stock in one guy referring to the other as a "f*cking punk" or as one of "these assholes". Nor in the other referring to him in turn as a "cracker" and a "n*gger". In another context that might be racist, but in this case both guys saw a person acting suspiciously. As a country, though, we are stuck on the racial angle. That's sad.

Or maybe it's just the cable news networks who are stuck. I'm sure a lot of America has not bothered to turn off their video game consoles to tune into the trial. Here in Boston we have the ongoing Billy Bulger mobster trial, the Aaron Hernandez arrest, and of course ongoing developments in the Boston Marathon bombing case. Not to mention Edward Snowden and Paula Deen.

What's sad in a smaller but ultimately more important way is that Trayvon Martin lost his life. "Thou shalt not kill" the Bible says in Genesis but takes back a little in Leviticus.

I think that the witnesses in the Zimmerman trial are mostly telling the truth, as they remember seeing or hearing it. It's a tougher case to me than whether George Zimmerman was getting his headed pounded into the sidewalk or just roughly ground into it. Zimmerman was defending himself, that much is clear. But was he in the right to kill?

The legal question I think this case will come down to is guilty or not guilty on the manslaughter charge based on who the jury finds initiated the use of deadly force. Was it:

(1) The guy who got out of his truck with a gun strapped to his hip to follow the other guy or the guy who may have thrown the first punch at his pursuer.

(2) The guy who took the mixed martial arts classes or the guy who was using "MMA" more effectively. Isn't that what we used to call street fighting?

(3) The guy who said "you are going to die tonight" or the survivor who conveniently claims the other guy said that.

(4) The guy who the survivor says first reached for the gun or the guy who drew the gun and fired.

(5) The guy who used the worst racial swear words or the guy whose side creates the most reasonable doubt.

All the cable news shows want to talk about is racial swears and reasonable doubt. That sad display has become a little too easy, apparently it holds a portion of the audience in an angry suspense that keeps them tuned in and brings in the ratings and advertisers. Even so, it's sadly hilarious to watch the hosts and analysts make utter buffoons of themselves.

Meanwhile, I spent an hour or so Saturday afternoon wandering around the Home Depot in Watertown, not too far from where the Boston Marathon bombers were caught. Seeing every color and category of American, and a few non-Americans, restored my faith that we're not all going to kill each other over something stupid. That is, not all of us are.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Incredible Shrinking Massachusetts Electorate

The special election for U.S. Senate we had this week was so uninspiring that I resorted to voting the way I do in city council elections, by computing which candidate lives closest to me. The theory is that a councilor who lives closer will be more likely driving over the same potholes as you and therefore more likely to get those potholes fixed. There are a couple of obvious flaws in that theory, of course.

So how did the election turn out? Hardly anyone turned out. So few people voted for the two party candidates, only 1,168,068 combined in our state of 6,646,144 people, that the total would not have won any of the U.S. Senate elections in the last 30 years, including the special election in January 2010.

Year Massachusetts U.S. Senate races Democratic votes Republican votes Democratic margin
2013 Markey v. Gomez 642,988 525,080 10.1%
2012 Warren v. Brown 1,696,346 1,458,048 7.6%
2010 Coakley v. Brown 1,058,682 1,168,107 -4.9%
2008 Kerry v. Beatty 1,959,843 922,727 36.0%
2006 Kennedy v. Chase 1,500,738 661,532 38.8%
2002 Kerry v. Cloud (L) 1,605,976 369,807 62.6%
2000 Kennedy v. Robinson 1,889,494 334,341 69.9%
1996 Kerry v. Weld 1,334,135 1,143,120 7.7%
1994 Kennedy v. Romney 1,265,997 894,000 17.2%
1990 Kerry v. Rappaport 1,321,712 992,917 14.2%
1988 Kennedy v. Malone 1,693,344 884,267 31.4%
1984 Kerry v. Shamie 1,393,150 1,136,913 10.1%
1982 Kennedy v. Shamie 1,247,084 784,602 22.8%
  Massachusetts Governor races      
2010 Patrick v. Baker 1,108,404 962,848 7.0%
2006 Patrick v. Healy 1,234,984 784,342 22.3%
2002 O'Brien v. Romney 985,981 1,091,988 -5.1%
1998 Harshbarger v. Celluci 901,843 967,160 -3.5%
1996 Roosevelt v. Weld 611,650 1,533,390 -43.0%
1990 Silber v. Weld 1,099,878 1,175,817 -3.3%
1986 Dukakis v. Kariotis 1,157,786 525,364 37.6%
1982 Dukakis v. King 631,911 549,335 7.0%

The drop in voting is so precipitous we may have found the new formula the U.S. Supreme Court says is needed for the Voting Rights Act.

What does this mean for Massachusetts politics? Well, first we will have another special election to fill the House seat of winner Congressman Ed Markey, and unfortunately I live in his district, so that's another trip to the polling precinct at the Cambridge Armory over the same potholed roads that aren't getting fixed.

Then we will have the 2014 elections, where there will be open race for Governor, assuming Deval Patrick retires after two terms or gets appointed to replace Eric Holder in the Obama Cabinet, while Ed Markey defends his new U.S. Senate seat. That will be a non-Presidential election year.

It may be time for the Republican Party to close up shop in Massachusetts, which would open the door for a third party to become a second party. As things stand, our idea of two party politics has come down to Italian Democrats v. Irish Democrats. I am neither, but tend to favor the Italians.

Occasionally we elect a Republican to broker the disputes between the Italians and the Irish, but that's really necessary in the state house on Beacon Hill, not in Washington, DC, so the Republicans have taken some really bad beats in some of those U.S. Senate races.

Governor Bill Weld, my all-time favorite Massachusetts politician wasn't really a Republican, or to be more precise was a Republican of the old libertarian school. The national Republicans hated him, and even went so far to block him from getting an Ambassadorship to Mexico because he might have once smoked a joint at a wedding weekend party. That block was supposed to help us win the War on Drugs, but very obviously didn't if you've followed what has been going on over the last decade in Mexico.

But, let's face it, the national Republicans hate Massachusetts, and what's the point of voting for a party that hates you. Even Mitt Romney, who was governor of this state, was forced to repeatedly diss us before the Republicans would give him the Presidential nomination in 2012. Really, what's the point?

That brings us to the Libertarians. Carla Howell polled 308,860 votes in 2000 on the Libertarian Party ticket, almost as many as the official Republican candidate Jack Robinson. In 2002, the Libertarian candidate Michael Cloud polled more than both of them. But the Republican voter base won't vote Libertarian, because they seem to think they have some chance of winning they really don't. And it's true that there is a crackpot factor when it comes to Libertarian candidates that has become part of the big-L Libertarian brand.

The Green-Rainbow Party has also fizzled in its attempts to break through. Jill Stein got 353,551 votes in her 2006 race for Massachusetts Secretary of State but only 32,816 votes in her 2010 run for Massachusetts Governor and 20,691 in Massachusetts in her 2012 run for President.

The good candidates who want to challenge the Democratic stranglehold should run as Independents.

So, for example, Scott Brown, who polled enough votes in 2012 to have won 7 out of the last 13 U.S. Senate elections, could simply announce that he has had it with both the Democrats and Republicans in Washington, DC. and run for U.S. Senate in 2014 as an Independent.

Also, it looks like Martha Coakley, my least favorite/most hated Massachusetts politician, may run for Governor in 2014 as the Irish Democrat. The Italian Democrats don't seem to have anyone yet, Mike Capuano being half-Irish, so I may have no one to vote for. But former Governor Bill Weld, who recently moved back to Massachusetts and bought a place in the Back Bay, could announce he is running as an Independent.

Year U.S. Senate and Governor races Democratic votes Independent votes Democratic margin
2014 Markey v. Brown 642,988 1,458,048 -38.8%
2014 Coakley v. Weld 1,058,682 1,533,390 -18.3%

Now that would be an interesting election.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nothing Special about the U.S. Senate Special Election in Massachusetts

In a week, we will be having another special election for U.S. Senate here in Massachusetts. This one is to replace John Kerry, who was appointed Secretary of State. Or to be more precise, to replace Mo Cowan, who was appointed as his interim replacement. If your eyes haven't glazed over yet, they soon will. Did I mention that the last televised was tonight? I watched and it was hardly worth mentioning.

Longtime Democratic Congressman Ed Markey is the favorite, if you can call someone the favorite who is generating so little interest. President Obama was in town last week to campaign for him, I think, or at least that is the rumor filtering back to those of us who didn't notice. The challenger is Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez, a private equity investor and former U.S. Navy Aviator and Navy SEAL.

Just how little interest this election has generated can be seen by comparing social media followers for Markey and Gomez, with the candidates in the 2012 U.S. Senate race, Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown:

Ed Markey38,4354,784
Gabriel Gomez14,4547,973
Elizabeth Warren417,56282,904
Scott Brown363,23561,407

Massachusetts has grown used to high interest U.S. Senate contests, Brown v. Coakley in 2010, Warren v. Brown in 2012. Perhaps grown tired is the better phrasing.

If you are really bored there will be a third choice on the ballot, Richard Heos running under the banner of the Twelve Visions Party. Here is his most recent tweet:
That's right, "He's all for himself." The Twelve Visions Party has this mission statement:
"The TVP has 1 Purpose: to bring about an initiatory-force-free, Protection-Only, service-based Government via the Prime Law Amendment and Protection Only Budget, Forever Ending the age old power-based government and its virulent force-backed rule of man, Forever Depoliticizing America and eventually the Entire World."
Here are the twelve visions:
1. Become the Person You Were Meant to Be.
2. Live the Life You Were Meant to Live.
3. Feel Extraordinary Every Day
4. Slow Down Aging Permanently.
5. Land the Job of Your Dreams.
6. Build the Business of Your Passions.
7. Experience the Love Of Your Life.
8. Have the Body You Always Envied.
9. Become a Genius of Society.
10. Have Everything You Ever Wanted.
11. Ride a Prosperity Wave to Riches.
12. Enjoy Nearly Perfect Health.
Be careful clicking those links as some on the internet allege Twelve Visions is a cult, ponzi scheme, or self-improvement racket - just what we need already have in Washington, DC.