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“The Temptation Of Renown”: Juror B37 Considers Writing Book About The Zimmerman Trial, Then Comes To Her Senses

It’s sort of quaint that when the winds of national attention float past someone who never would have otherwise gotten the chance to receive something resembling fame, their first thought so often is, “I should write a book!” The publishing industry may be dying and 99 percent of authors may never get sales out of the four figures, but everyone, even people who haven’t written anything longer than an email since they were in their teens, thinks the world would be eager to read 300 pages of their thoughts and feelings.

So it was that Juror B37—since she hasn’t revealed her name, I’m going to call her Gladys—emerged into the bright light of a Florida morning and said to herself, “There’s gotta be a way for me to cash in on this.” And she decided to write a book, because like most Americans, Gladys isn’t non-famous, she just isn’t famous yet. She quickly retained a literary agent, who no doubt told her that this thing was going to be huge. After all, it’s all over the news. Folks just can’t get enough of this Zimmerman trial. How many millions of people would gladly plunk down 25 bucks to read the real inside story of what went on in those two days of deliberations? Maybe Hollywood would option the book, and then Gladys could be played by Anne Hathaway, who would want to learn all about the trial from her personally, and then they’d totally become best friends, and then…

Let’s say this for Gladys: After running through all that in her head for a day or two, at some point she said to herself, “Who the hell am I kidding?” After all, it would take her ghostwriter at least a month or two to spit out a manuscript, then it would take weeks more to get it into stores, by which time nobody could possibly give a crap what Gladys, or anybody else on the jury, thought about the trial. After all, the whole thing was televised—it isn’t like what went on in the courtroom is a mystery. And the trial itself wasn’t particularly dramatic. There were no stunning moments, no “Oh my, I can’t seem to get this glove on my hand,” no gripping testimony from the one person who was actually there when the crime took place. All Gladys would be able to tell anyone is what she and her fellow jurors discussed, which probably isn’t that interesting. So Gladys quite sensibly decided not to write a book after all.

Gladys’ return to reason notwithstanding, it never ceases to amaze me how many people think that their lives will be improved if they achieve some measure of fame, not as validation for their efforts, and not even the kind of fame that comes with enjoyable privileges, but just being known to strangers as an end in itself. There are dozens of reality shows which exist to let us gawk at people so despicable that we can feel much better about our own lives and relationships, and they not only have no trouble finding people willing to let them turn the cameras on every pathetic detail of their lives, they have to beat off the potential stars/subjects/contestants with a stick.

OK, you got frustrated and yelled at your kids the other day, but have you seen those monsters on Dance Moms? If you’re in the mood to have your faith in humanity’s fundamental goodness obliterated, I highly recommend the program, although it turns out, not too surprisingly, that the producers work hard to make the show’s participants seem as horrid as possible. What I’ve always wondered is whether the moms themselves think that they come off as sympathetic. What are they getting out of their participation, other than the contempt of millions? Perhaps they and others like them think that, like the Duck Dynasty fellas, once the cameras are on them they’ll be able to turn their brand of homespun charm into an entire multimedia empire. (Right now a book by the Duck Dynasty patriarch stands at number 3 on the combined print and e-book New York Times bestseller list, trailing only Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and the publishing phenomenon of the last couple of years, Proof of Heaven, in which a doctor describes how he went to heaven for a while when he was in a coma, and there’s just no possible way it could have been a dream, because, you know, Jesus is awesome. There are a couple dozen Duck Dynasty books of wisdom, cookbooks, kids books, wall calendars, and who knows what else available for purchase.)

The best move Juror 37B made this week was doing her interview with Anderson Cooper in darkness, so we can’t see her face. She probably did that because she was afraid that if everyone knew who she was, she might get harassed by people who disagreed with the verdict she rendered, which is possible. But being a regular person is its own kind of privilege, one she may have learned to appreciate.

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 16, 2013

July 17, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized, Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wake The Hell Up”: Did George Zimmerman Get Away With Murder?

Four words of advice for African-Americans in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal:

Wake the hell up.

The Sunday after Zimmerman went free was a day of protest for many of us. From Biscayne Boulevard in Miami to Leimert Park in Los Angeles, to the Daley Center in Chicago to Times Square in New York City, African-Americans — and others who believe in racial justice — carried out angry, but mostly peaceful, demonstrations.

Good. This is as it should have been.

But if that’s the end, if you just get it out of your system, then move ahead with business as usual, then all you did Sunday was waste your time. You might as well have stayed home.

We are living in a perilous era for African-American freedom. The parallels to other eras have become too stark to ignore.

Every period of African-American advance has always been met by a crushing period of pushback, the crafting of laws and the use of violence with the intent of eroding the new freedoms. Look it up:

The 13th Amendment ended slavery. So the white South created a convict leasing system that was actually harsher.

The 14th Amendment guaranteed citizenship. So the white South rendered that citizenship meaningless with the imposition of Jim Crow laws.

The 15th Amendment gave us the right to vote; it was taken away by the so-called “grandfather clause.” The Supreme Court struck that down, so the white South relied on literacy tests and poll taxes to snatch our ballots all over again.

Our history is a litany: two steps forward, one step back.

The civil rights movement was the greatest step forward since emancipation. So we ought not be surprised to see voting rights eroded again, the Civil Rights Act attacked, the so-called “war on drugs” used for the mass incarceration of black men. Or to see the killing of an unarmed child deliver a message as old as the Constitution itself: Black life is worth less.

We are in another period of pushback. And worse, we don’t even seem to know.

It feels as if we have taken the great advances of the last half-century — the protective laws, the rise of the black middle class, the winning of the ballot, the flowering of options once considered unthinkable — for granted. It feels as if we have come to regard progress as somehow inevitable, preordained, carved in stone and irrevocable as a birthright.

So yes, we need to wake the hell up.

While we were celebrating, others were calculating.

While we were writing nasty rap lyrics, they were writing senators.

While we were organizing Obama victory parties, they were organizing Tea Parties.

While we were buying DVDs, they were buying candidates.

While we were sending texts, they were building propaganda machinery.

While we were resting on the past, they were seizing the future.

Granted, the preceding casts a wide net. Yes, there are many of us, African-Americans and others, who don’t need the admonition, who are already awake, who have always been awake. More power to them.

But there are also many of us still sleeping. So let Trayvon Martin’s death and the acquittal of his killer be a wake-up call. Let it be a spur to stop reacting and start pro-acting. Let it be a goad to become better informed. Let it be a reminder to organize. Let it be a reason to send a check to the NAACP. Let it be an incentive to join the social justice ministry at church. Let it be cause to write your congressperson. Let it be an impetus to teach and nurture your kids.

Most of all, let it be an alarm clock, ringing in the darkness of a new morning, calling conscience to account. Do not waste this moment. The time for sleeping is done.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, July 17, 2013

July 17, 2013 Posted by | Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Just Another Gutless Sniveler”: A Funny Thing Happened On Marco Rubio’s Way To The Nomination

Poor Marco Rubio.

As the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform sink, so go his hopes of establishing himself as the solid Republican frontrunner in the 2016 campaign for the White House.

Meanwhile, the junior Florida senator is under siege from the bug-eyed right wing of his own party. Glenn Beck called him a “piece of garbage,” and even the Tea Party has turned on him. It’s gotten so bad that GOP action groups are putting out commercials saying nice things about Rubio, just to preserve his shot at the presidency.

Unfortunately, immigration reform is the only serious issue on which Rubio has presumed to lead. Otherwise, his time in Washington has been quiet and forgettable.

During the big post-Newtown debate on expanding background checks of firearms buyers, Rubio revealed himself as just another gutless sniveler controlled by the NRA. In the budget battle he offered not a single new idea, only boilerplate attacks on President Obama over the federal deficit (which is now, to the chagrin of Republican presidential hopefuls, shrinking).

Immigration reform was to be Rubio’s golden ticket to the nomination — a young Hispanic candidate from a critical swing state, bridging with Latino voters a huge gap that helped cost Mitt Romney the election last year.

The immigration bill that has finally passed the Senate would add more resources for border security while offering a long road to full citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants. The legislation is doomed to crash in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner has been neutered by the hardcore who take their cues from radio screamers like Beck.

Many of those House members disdainful of immigration reform don’t have to worry about their own re-election because they come from carefully gerrymandered districts where the majority of voters are older white conservatives.

As long as the House remains tilted so far right of the nation’s political center, and continues to smother all efforts at moderate compromise, the Republicans have virtually no prayer of recapturing the White House in three years.

This grim obstacle has become clear to Rubio and others seeking to be the next GOP nominee, as well as to some heavy political action groups that have launched an unusual ad campaign in several states.

One Florida ad running on Fox News encourages viewers to phone Rubio and “thank him for keeping his promise, and fighting to secure the border.” The commercial was funded by the conservative American Action Network (these big-money groups always have the word “American” in their name, to show how patriotically unselfish they are).

Another one, Americans for Conservative Direction, recently ran pro-Rubio ads in Iowa, the first major primary state, and also the whitest. “Stand with Marco Rubio to end de facto amnesty,” the commercial proclaimed.

And next month, in one of the grandest hypocrisies of the entire immigration furor, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation is for the first time taking its annual conference away from Washington.

The new site: Orlando. The keynote speaker: Sen. Marco Rubio.

Why is this so funny? Because the Americans for Prosperity Foundation is basically the infamous Koch brothers, Charles and David, those ultra-conservative billionaires who spend their free time and money trying to buy elections.

Paradoxically, their campaign contributions and massive media blitzes helped to install some of the same fire-breathing gasbags in Congress who are now dismantling immigration reform and damaging Rubio’s chances to be president.

That the Kochs would come to Florida and put Rubio center stage illustrates the bewildered desperation now plaguing the Republican Party. Charlie and Dave have seen the sorry poll numbers from 2012, and know they can’t win the White House without a titanic shift of Hispanic votes.

Apparently the strategy is to present a candidate who is heroically identified with pushing for immigration reform, while the brothers continue working backstage to ensure that reform itself has zero chance of becoming law.

Maybe that’s the secret strategy of the GOP leadership, too. The recent burst of political ads isn’t a pro-immigrant pathway so much as pro-Rubio, portraying him as a principled crusader on a sensitive issue.

The aim is to build him up as presidential material and deflect the ridicule from the far right.

For a candidate comfortably positioned in the political mainstream, being called “a piece of garbage” by a clown like Glenn Beck would be a badge of honor, something to brag about.

Rubio’s problem is that he isn’t in the mainstream, and he doesn’t have the conviction to get there. He won’t stand up to Beck just like he wouldn’t stand up to the NRA.

And if the immigration overhaul goes down the tubes, he might be standing in the wings at the next Republican convention, watching someone else get nominated.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, The National Memo, July 16, 2013

July 17, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans, All Talk, No Action”: No House Alternative, No Conference Committee, No Attempt At Finding Common Ground

Without a hint of humor or shame, the Republican National Committee issued a press release this morning accusing President Obama of being “All Talk, No Action” when it comes to the “Hispanic Community.” No, seriously, that’s what the RNC said.

Someone at the RNC’s communications office probably should have thought this one through a little more, since, when it comes to issues important to Latino voters, it’s the lack of “action” from congressional Republicans that’s proving to be so problematic.

Indeed, when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, which is facing long odds in the face of fierce opposition from the House GOP, the question is whether these Republican lawmakers are prepared to do anything on the issue. National Review‘s Jonathan Strong reports they may not (via Greg Sargent).

Speaker John Boehner wants to pass a series of small bills dealing with immigration reform piece by piece, but it’s not clear whether 218 votes, the required number for passage, will be there for any of them.

Top Democrats are already signaling they’ll oppose the various bills being prepared by the GOP leadership, and conservative Republicans, especially, are wary. Many Republicans will prefer to simply vote against any bill, even if they agree with elements of the legislation, just to prevent Boehner from going to conference with the Senate. Such a conference, many conservatives fear, could lead to a consensus bill that includes amnesty.

When it comes to the future of the policy, this is obviously important. House Republican leaders don’t intend to consider the bipartisan Senate bill, but they also don’t want to do nothing. Boehner & Co. figure they can at least put a positive face on failure by instead taking up elements of immigration reform piecemeal.

But Strong, whose sourcing among Republicans on Capitol Hill is excellent, is reporting that rank-and-file House Republicans aren’t even willing to go this far. Indeed, they’ll even oppose measures they like for fear that they’ll go to a conference committee and become slightly more progressive after negotiations with the Senate Democratic majority.

It’s easier, they figure, to just kill every element of immigration reform and hope the electoral consequences aren’t too severe.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, there’s a good reason for that. This is the strategy outlined just last week by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and National Review editor Rich Lowry — two of the most influential Republican voices in media — who co-signed an editorial urging House Republicans to put “a stake through” immigration reform’s “heart.”

More specifically, they urged GOP lawmakers should do literally nothing on the issue — no House alternative, no conference committee, no attempt at finding “common ground.”

It appears the advice was well received.

And so this once again puts the Speaker in an awkward position, as it sinks in that many in his own caucus prefer inaction — and he’s already committed to the so-called “Hastert Rule” that effectively gives these far-right House members a veto power over which bills reach the floor.

What was that the RNC was saying about “All Talk, No Action”?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 16, 2013

July 17, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Doomed To Fail”: When Tea Partiers Try To Show Their “Diversity”

Judging from the matching red t-shirts, bottled water, snack stands, and cover band playing a passable version of Marvin Gaye’s classic, “What’s Going On?”, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume there was a large and elaborate family reunion yesterday, held on the Capitol. But, in fact, it was a rally—organized by the Black American Leadership Alliance, a right-wing group with ties to white nationalists—to oppose the comprehensive immigration bill that has passed the Senate, and is fighting to survive in the House of Representatives.

Two things stood out about the event. First, even in the shade—and even with fans placed strategically around the area—it was hot. I would say it was too hot to be outside in the first place, but obviously, several hundred people disagreed with me. Or at least, opposed immigration reform enough to tolerate the conditions. And second, despite its organizers and its speakers—who were predominantly African American—the large bulk of the crowd was white. At best, there were a smattering of black faces, located at the edges of the group, seated away from the core of the gathering. Most of these faces were male, and like almost everyone there, they traveled from other parts of the country to join this demonstration.

Troy Warren is an unemployed graduate of the University of Wisconsin who came from Los Angeles, California, where he’s lived for the last seventeen years who says that immigration reform is an attempt to take jobs from blacks, and leave them impoverished. Indeed, he’s angry at the idea that African Americans won’t work the same jobs as “Mexicans.” “Look around,” he said, gesturing to the surrounding buildings, “We built this. The slaves. And if we built this, how can we not have the knowledge to work?”

(It’s worth pointing out that, at this point, he struck the drum on his shoulder, to emphasize the question.)

As for politics beyond immigration? When I asked if he liked President Obama, Warren said yes. “Yeah, I’m an Obama supporter. And I think he’s a good example. But he hasn’t done much for black people.”

This is what separated the black attendees from their white counterparts. While the white demonstrators were nearly unanimous in their disdain for President Obama—carrying signs slamming the president for Benghazi and allowing “amnesty”—the African American demonstrators ranged from careful ambivalence about the president, to outright support.

“I love President Obama,” said Gerald Pitts, founder of the “Milllennium Panthers,” an all-black anti-immigration group based out of LA, “I love the First Lady. I love their children. We support the president, completely. And if you fuck with him, I’ll protect him. I’ll be his top security.”

Dressed in military-esque gear, he waved his anti-immigration signs as he explained his stance. “If I did something illegally as a black man, I would be locked up. It’s a double standard,” Pitts said. “I’m a man of God, and I can’t have racism, sexism, or any kind of prejudice in my heart. But the law is the law.”

If there’s one thing that stood out about Warren, Pitts, and others, it was that their opposition to immigration reform—and their conservatism—had more to do with a kind of black nationalism than it did with any actual adherence to Tea Party ideology. Take Kenniss, a middle-aged woman who, in the precise voice of a grammar school teacher (she declined to tell me her occupation), took issue with the idea that all Americans were immigrants. “No African, living in their homeland begged for an opportunity to come here and work as free labor. Still, we were the basis for building this country.” Kenniss’ opposition to immigration reform had less to do with the identity of the immigrants (though she saw a double standard in the treatment of Latino immigrants versus Haitian ones), and everything to do with the idea that it was unfair. If anyone should receive assistance from the government—which, by and large, is how she saw reform—it should be the descendants of slaves.

As for the white attendees? They were there to oppose immigration reform, oppose Obama, and—yes—show their concern for black unemployment. “Adding more workers is irrational,” said Staci, a young single mother from Birmingham, Alabama, “Immigration reform will threaten jobs for black Americans, my children, and every American.” She was disappointed with the president, both for his policies, and for—as she saw it—squandering an opportunity to “bring the races together.” Instead, she said, citing Obama’s decision to get involved in the Trayvon Martin controversy last year, “he’s done the most damage of any president to race relations.”

This comment points to something important. In addition to voicing opposition to the “Gang of Eight” bill, it seems that the goal of this event was to show—loudly—that the Tea Party is as diverse as it claims. Most of the speakers were conservative African American activists, who mixed their attacks on immigration with post-racial red meat—“We’re not African Americans, we’re Americans,” said Ted Hayes, an L.A.-based black Republican—and odd call outs to black culture. Hayes, for instance, ended his speech with a nod to Flavor Flav. “Yeeaaah boyeeee!”, he yelled, which was followed by a crowd-driven chant of “USA, USA, USA!”

Of all the speakers, however, the crowd was most enthusiastic for Texas senator Ted Cruz, who didn’t deviate from his typical approach of broad condemnation for the federal government. But for as much as attendees appreciated the display, all it did was emphasize the extent to which, outside of immigration, there’s not much that could plausibly connect the interests of black Americans to anti-government conservatives.

Indeed, if this rally was meant as a pitch to black voters—to enlist them in the fight against immigration reform—then, from conception to execution, it was doomed to fail. “I voted for Obama both times,” said Pitts, the man who also urged “anchor babies” to go back to their “home country.”

When it comes to black people, that—in a nutshell—is the Tea Party’s problem.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, July 16, 2013

July 17, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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