Purging the Blight – A Secular Solution

Is there a secular way to engage the black community?

Every rally and protest that’s been mentioned has been a religiously coated argument. There’s nothing inehrently wrong with this, other than that – you know – Christianity was the primary method of intellectually subverting black slaves into accepting a lifetime of servitude and the lash in return for heavenly salvation.

Tuesday night, 1,000 people gathered at a Baptist church to rally about justice, peace and proest in this case. Similiar events are taking place around the country and notable leaders weighing in on this case are almost exclusively using exclusively religious rhetoric.

Every admonition for change seems to meld and flow in between hymns, protestations, sermons, outrage and religious refrains. Is there a way to engage the very justified outrage in the black community without the crutch of religion? This issue wouldn’t evaporate without the church. Clearly, social networks have gotten this movement off the ground in the first place, but why then the immediate transition back to the pews?


The Blight of the Suburbs, cont…

Finally, someone’s got the lye and gelatin. We’re making soap. Give this video a listen. Joe Scarborough gives a Network type speech. It’s a small monologue, but its precisely from the place I am coming from. Shame. Shame that I’m from here. Scarborough’s ashamed that he’s from even closer to Sanford than I am.

Not only that. The two strongest condemnations of the Sanford P.D. and the State of Florida’s foot-dragging have come from Rick Santorum* and Barack Obama. The latter powerfully coming out and saying the kind of thing (in italics below) that lets me know no matter what, there will be justice here.

“I can only imagine what these parents are going through and when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local, to figure out how this tragedy happened. You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.

I am going to wildly speculate now, so please back away from the computer screen if this offends you. This comes from a place that’s familiar to all Floridians and most likely all Southerners of a semi-enlightened disposition.

  • Why hasn’t Zimmerman been arrested? The “stand your ground” law protects someone not only from prosecution for using lethal force to defend yourself, but also grants full immunity from being arrested. To disambiguate: if you arrest someone who successfully brings a “stand your ground” defense, your police department can be sued for it. This is why he’s not behind bars.
  • Why was Martin’s body drug tested immediately at the scene, but Zimmerman wasn’t given a breathalyzer or blood test? This is Sanford, Florida. This is the trucks on the lawn part of the state. In order to get to my parents house I have to drive through places identical to Sanford. I pulled off the road one time in just such a place and it was full of abandoned truck stops, SUVs (which, next time you’re out, try to identify some Explorers and Suburbans. They’re increasingly more rare, I find, but not here), and even more desperate homeless people than you’ll find in cities. A more precise definition of why one was tested but the other wasn’t from Mr. Chappelle.
  • What does it mean that the Governor opposed the “stand your ground” law being applied to this case? It means that the conservatives who put in place the “stand your ground” law are terrified. It means if that law is successfully used to defend Zimmerman, if the “stand your ground” law works here, these NRA conservatives and the governor will eat crow all the way to the ballot box. The state and the nation will set ablaze with petitions and referendums in order to overturn this law and punish those who put it in place. Florida is not alone, it is one of several dozen states that fixed their self-defense laws to remove the “need to retreat” clause that’s successfully been part of our collective Anglo-American legal code for centuries. No matter what these NRA conservatives say, that law is responsible for Martin’s death. It is the reason Zimmerman was packing heat on patrol, it is the reason Zimmerman knew he could confront Martin, it is the reason that when Martin swung Zimmerman drew and put a bullet in a little boy’s chest.

*-Santorum’s Quote:

“It’s chilling to hear what happened and of course the fact that law enforcement didn’t immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of you know obviously horrible decisions made by people in this process.”

The Blight of the Suburbs, cont.

I am a 24-year-old, college educated, white male living in the United States and living here just became a little bit frightening. This isn’t a tongue-in-cheek economic statement. Nor am I implying that I am living in a warzone. I’m sorry, I’m not being clear. Its just that it’s very difficult to say, “it’s scary to live (insert place here).” People are going to think. They will make inferences, so you have to be very clear about what you mean.

I am a white man in Florida and I feel less safe living in America because I am afraid that a man is going to get away with the cold-blooded murder of a child. Its probable and likely – I think (maybe I have to think) – that the law will come down on this man. Justice will find a way. Again, for clarity’s sake, I do not mean “southern justice”. I mean I can imagine now that Sanford has handed this over to the State; the State will bring charges, Zimmerman will be defined as having acted outside the protections granted by the “stand your ground” law and he will be convicted after a heavily covered trial and imprisoned for a time insufficient to console anyone, most tragically Martin’s family.

I can also imagine a situation that’s less likely but feels more real. It feels like the last few years as a news reading person in Florida feels. Sort of like this: The State will bring charges and after a short case with lots of intentional hand-wringing (so that the people most incensed can feel vindicated) Zimmerman will be acquitted. Or the state won’t ever even bring charges, probably fearing a Constitutional challenge to the “stand your ground law” – which differs from everyone’s common sense notion of “self defense” only in that it removes the necessity to at least try to retreat or diffuse a threatening situation in a provable way. If you think about it, this means “justifiable homicide” has become a thing. And there’s statistics. Go look and feel shame to live in America, as well as a little scared.

So that’s what I mean. I’m white, a male, I live in America. But despite being a priveleged, educated, white male I feel like I could walk down the street in a different neighborhood in my city in Florida, I could be angrily confronted by a larger person 11 years older than me who said he’d called the cops on me for being suspicious, maybe I’m dressed ironically tramp-like, I may be convinced I need to hit him to get away, then I could be shot in the chest, dead. And no one would go to jail. If you feel comfortable, play that out in your head. Do you feel safe living in Florida tonight?

The clip embedded two paragraphs down in this link includes the 911 calls, you can hear a voice calling for help, followed by a gun shot. It’s unclear to me whose voice is calling for help. What is clear, is that an innocent person was killed and no one is in jail.

Oh, and one more thing:

Look at this face. Are you scared?

Full Coverage

Note: Obviously this is a racial issue. You may have taken umbrage with my referring to my own race and saying (possibly) – oh but I’m white and I’m scared and that’s crazy talk! White people in America are the most safe!

I am not making a reverse racism argument. I am saying there are race issues in this country and despite these underlying race issues no one wants to talk about, someone in the “most safe” category no longer feels that way. If you feel like my choice of words cheapens the issue, I’m sorry.

Fat, Scared, Entitled: The Blight of the Suburbs

First, read this article.

A captain of the neighborhood watch in a gated community, armed, with a 100-pound advantage over a teenager carrying nothing more suspicious than a bag of Skittles. Don’t underestimate the inherent fear in the mind of a suburbanite when someone is “walking”. Especially in the rain.

In the end, what may happen to George Zimmerman? All we know is than an innocent is dead in Sanford, FL and a 28-year-old captain of the neighborhood watch in a gated community suspected him of burglary, called 911, pursued him, was told by the dispatcher not to pursue him, a handful of residents heard a scuffle, some overheard “what appears to be a desperate cry” for help, and then someone is dead of a bullet wound to the chest.

I say throw the book at him, hard. Murderer.


Architect, Biologist – Same Difference

The new Pier design, “The Lens” has underwater sea gardens and a faux-reef type aesthetic. At least, it’s plan on paper does.

“Whoever wrote this doesn’t know a thing about sea grass,” said Margaret “Penny” Hall, the top sea grass expert at the state’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

The article points out other discrepencies between the design plan and what’s ecologically possible. However, for the layman, images of the clear water in the Lens’ colorful presentation will immediately stand out as far-fetched.


The Times emailed the designers of the Lens 17 questions about the Underwater Garden project. The questions included “Where will you be getting your Johnson’s grass from?” and “How will you keep waves from nearby boats from affecting the growth in the Underwater Garden?”

The reply from project director Tim Williams to six questions — including the ones about Johnson’s grass and boats — was, “To be determined during the design process.” That was also the answer about whether they still plan to build the tilted sea meadow ring.

So, to summarize, the designer’s response to serious ecological and biological concerns with the engineering feat at hand was corporate-speak. Our determination will overcome any natural barriers, even heavy metal poisoning in the soil underneath the pier and the designed-in heavy boat traffic around the pier.


That’s Unsettling

I’d just like to reflect on the above map of counties won by Gingrich (blue) and Romney (green). There’s a variety of idiomatic ways Floridians describe this situation, but one goes like this:

The farther north you go, the farther South you go.


Interactive Map

Last Night’s GOP Foreign Policy Wrap Up

Summarized in my tweet to the @NBCPolitics:

GOP on FP: Bush, Bush, Bush and Paul

Watch the full Debate

Read the Reactions over at The Dish. My choice from the list:

Gingrich tried to play the equable frontrunner but got dinged hard by Romney, who calmly but tenaciously pressed the charge of K Street influence-peddling. I think it will stick. Romney also put the tax question behind him, for now, but I think failed once again to really connect with conservatives. Bottom line: Romney stayed steady, Gingrich got taken down a notch. So Romney wins.

So Wait, Conservatives Are OK With Electing a Mormon, or No?

So, we can all stop pretending that’s the case now.

Forty-five percent of voters interviewed said that defeating Obama in November was the issue that mattered most to them and 51 percent of them chose Gingrich. Romney won 37 percent of those voters.

The funny thing about that is Romney is considered the “beat Obama” candidate. But as often comes with the passions of religious people, sense and science are often just beyond reach.

On to Florida. Yee-haw.

Redistricting in Florida, Hope on the Horizon

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve posted a lot already today. I’m that perfect kind of hungover where the only symptom I’m experiencing is the inability to focus on complex thought. Seriously, you don’t know how many times I had to fix that first thing I put up today about Freakonomics and money in politics. My first draft was the most incoherent thing I’ve written since undergrad grammar where I still naively thought I knew how to write by virtue of my good grades in public school English classes.

So just, now that I’ve bored you, here’s the link. You go read it. Or don’t. Could totally care less. This is really all for me anyways.

I was just excited and stuff that it actually appears the two amendments restricting the house and senate from fucking us with redistricting may actually have their intended affect. You know, making it more fair to vote, be a citizen, live here.

Keep An Eye on the Environment

In a state like ours, efforts to solve one problem are often at the expense of an equally valuable resource. This times op-ed piece points out some key bills currently up for review. One such bill deals with reclaimed water management, which Tampa’s mayor (Bob Buckhorn) just last week, came out in favor of. It’s HB 639:

Reclaimed Water; Provides legislative findings relating to use of reclaimed water; provides that reclaimed water is an alternative water supply & eligible for such funding; specifies contract provisions; provides for determination of uncommitted reclaimed water capacity by certain utilities; prohibits water management districts from requiring permits for use of reclaimed water; authorizes permit conditions for certain surface water & groundwater sources; authorizes water management districts to require use of reclaimed water under certain conditions; prohibits water management districts from requiring or restricting services provided by reuse utilities; clarifies which permit applicants are required to submit certain information; requires DEP & water management districts to initiate rulemaking to adopt specified revisions to water resource implementation rule.

Disambiguation (ripped from TBT*):

HB 639, sponsored by Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, would exclude treated wastewater as a resource of the state. The net effect would be that reclaimed water would no longer have to be used for public benefit. Regional water management districts would no longer manage how reclaimed water was used. Nor could they direct utilities to use reclaimed to ease any water shortage or similar emergency. This is a wholesale giveaway of an emerging, vital commodity. Florida leads the nation in using reclaimed to conserve drinking water supplies and to replenish rivers, lakes and the aquifer. This bill would take a valuable public resource off the table at the very time it is playing a larger role in accommodating growth and conservation.


*Fuck you St. Pete Times, you don’t want me to call you the TBT then don’t change your name to TBT. I’ll reserve tbt* for the paper of the same name but – I guess? – equivalently less important due to capitalization issues…

*this is actually how it’s used, right? It’s tbt*?

*These can stop now, it’s getting kind of redundant and I don’t think anyone gets your masturbatory grammar joke anymore or if they do they don’t care. Right. Fine, then. Carry on.

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