Monday, July 29, 2013

The Tragedy of Travon

The sexy issue of the day has been the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer George Zimmerman. From the time of this murder, this incident has spark racial tensions and incited roars that this murder was a product of racial profiling. Since George Zimmerman was released with no consequential justice being enacted, the cries for further prosecution have never been louder. The questions most relevant to this issues are (roughly) as follows:

  • Was George Zimmerman's initial judgment of Trayvon Martin racially driven? Did he decide to pursue Martin simply because he was black? 
The prosecution was not out to delineate whether Zimmerman was simply a racist, but instead whether his initial suspicions of Martin where driven only by the fact that he was black - this prompting the suspicion, pursuit, and eventual killing of Martin. The answer is yes. Zimmerman had almost no information on Martin apart from the fact that he liked iced tea, skittles, hoodies, and that he was black. It is easy (an accurate) to say that the largest driver in that suspicion was the fact that Martin was black, and those other noticeable traits were irrelevant or anomalies in the situation. This instance of profiling does not mean that Zimmerman is a racist (although he is free to hold those prejudicial views), but it does mean that he used the race of Trayvon as a determining factor in whether this anonymous boy had any malicious intent (which as we know, he did not). One important note in Zimmerman's history is that in his time as a neighborhood watch enthusiast, Zimmerman has called the police over 40 times to report suspicious persons in the neighborhood... all those persons where black individuals. So was Zimmerman motivated by race in this act, most definitely, yes. 
  • Were the actions of George Zimmerman legal? 
Zimmerman (as far as we know) did not break the law in his actions. He was lawfully carrying a gun; he notified the police of suspicious behavior; he observed what he thought to be suspicious behavior; he pursued the perpetrator of that behavior; and after confronting the suspicious individual (Trayvon Martin) as an act of self defense, he shot his attacker. The major gap in this case is that no one is certain (except George and Tarayvon) about what happened between the time of pursuit and confrontation. Should Zimmerman have pursued Martin (?) probably not; he was an innocent kid getting a snack. Did he have the right to pursue (from a reasonable, un-infringing distance) someone who he thought was a neighbor up-to-no-good... yes, he did. In the event that Martin did indeed attack Zimmerman, was Zimmerman allowed to wield and discharge his firearm to protect himself... yes, he was. Killing Martin was undoubtably wrong; but (as fucked up as it is), it was within the parameters of Florida law.
  • Should Zimmerman have been convicted for this crime? 
I will admit, this is a bit of a silly question - anyone who shoots a boy should be convicted and punished (what the extent of the sentence is, well that's up to the jury). In this particular case, the evidence didn't amount to enough to convince the jury that Zimmerman's actions were outside Florida's stand your ground laws. Should he have been convicted - probably. Am I surprised he wasn't? Not really.

This case has highlighted two important deficiencies in society. First, that someone can lawfully get away from manslaughter of a minor if he feels his safety is at risk; second, that the color of someone's skin is still a determining factor in the intuition of someone. Do I think Zimmerman is a racist, or do I think Zimmerman thinks Zimmerman is a racist? No. I think that Zimmerman's conclusions that black kids are up-to-no-good is not a product of malice, but of social structures and weighted statistics that have normalized the belief of black children being prone to crime. Zimmerman couldn't escape this prejudice, and Martin couldn't escape the results of that prejudice. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Liberals Say: The Ryan Budget is not the Solution

Over the past two years, one issue that has plagued the American political system is that of budgetary negotiations. This general disagreement has caused the US to lose its perfect credit rating, it has promoted artificial spending-suicide mechanisms, and it ultimately has given the American people reason to lose faith in their elected officials. There are politicians on the right screaming apocalyptic predictions about our country's future, and those on the left demonizing Bush tax cuts. We have not reached a point of agreement for any of these dilemmas  but instead are met with budgetary proposals from the right and left which appear quite foreign to each other.

One of the most recent proposals up for approval is the "Ryan Budget." (As the chairman to the House Budgetary Committee, Congressman Ryan's name is adopted into every proposal pumped out of the House.) Similar to proposals he has made in the past, this budget is filled with tax breaks, program cuts, and an overal reduction in spending. Republicans proudly publicize this proposal as a serious job creation and deficit reducing plan - but a closer look will show otherwise.

On the matter of spending reduction, it plans to cut $4.6 trillion over the next decade. With the simple - nearsighted and all to common - goal of Republican's to reduce expenditures, this is an accomplishment; but as a responsible plan to improve US economic health, this plan falls flat. Among the unoriginal ideas of how to cut spending, Ryan's plan looks to implement the following: turning Medicare into a voucher program; reforming food stamp and medicaid programs into block grants for states to decide to keep or cut; reducing much of the WallStreet and healthcare reforms enacted over the past five years; and chipping away at federally funded eduction, job training, and scientific research funding. In category of discretionary defense spending Ryan's plan has met Democrats in the isle and placed a cap on expenditures on this item. Concerning tax cuts, this plan looks to cut the top tax rate from 39.8% to 25%... which will most likely prompt a tax increase for middle income families.

The task to cut US expenditures, albiet nobel, is much less simple than Ryan is considering it. Since the end of the Great Recession, the US economic has experienced steady growth of 1-4%. This growth was only reversed in January of 2013, a contraction which was decidedly a result of lowered government spending. Knowing this economic reality, implementing Ryan budget cuts will undoubtably have a reverse-growth effect on the economy in the short and long term.

Concerning tax-cuts, it is amazing to continue to see Republicans purport the economic benefits of the Bush tax cuts. Looking at the growth of the deficit since Bush implemented his tax cut legislation, nearly half of the deficit spending stemmed from Bush-era tax cuts. Claiming to be serious on deficit reduction, but continuing these tax breaks is a ridiculous and hypocritical.

If we are to implement this vague and misguided Republican policy, the ramifications we be felt in short term growth, and long term deficit growth. Consensus can be met in responsible spending reduction and logical tax policy; unfortunately, this budgetary choice is neither.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

We're all Fucked.

Since I don't think many people read my blog – and since I rarely add original content – I am going to set proprieties aside for this post.

I have been reading CS Lewis' book Mere Christianity. Admittedly, I am no scholar in this field, but I have developed a few concerns with some of the arguments he has made in this manifesto... namely concerning the (according to Clive) abominable sin of PRIDE. Lewis believes this sin to be at the root of all sin, and the most unrecognized among all sins, especially among non Christians. This idea is nothing new, after all, Pride is one of the Seven Deadly sins; pride has been understood as very destructive to the human spirit; and pride runs directly counter to humility.

What bothers me most about this critique of pride, is that it is almost unavoidable. How does one defeat pride? One defeats pride, by making an effort to do so, and if successful, one cannot help but feel proud of there efforts... but then... fuck.... you're being prideful and you're back at square one. This all follows the same stem of logic in how we can never be purely altruistic, as we cannot avoid all residual sense of satisfaction for what we do or give.

Pride, I believe is a caustic element of human nature. Unfortunately however, all accomplishment is closely followed by pride; and awareness of that pride is self depreciating; and self depreciation is humility's evil twin; and even coming to the point of realizing that... will prompt some residual pride. So, in the end, pride is something we have to live with. It is not something we need to wear on our sleeves, or encourage in our actions; it is something that we should scrutinize, but not defeat.