Thursday, July 18, 2013

Is NASCAR Ready For An Openly Gay Driver?


Question of the Day

Fox Sports asked the question today: "Is NASCAR ready for a gay driver"? The question stemmed from an interview on the Race Hub with Stephen Rhodes, a former driver, who also happens to be gay. Stephen retired from driving to devote his time to helping his partner realize his dream of starting a restaurant. Now, that the restaurant is a flourishing business, Stephen Rhodes would like to get back into racing. Hence, the question.

I was pleasantly surprised that the comments to this article were as tolerant and positive as they were. NASCAR fans generally are not characterized by tolerance and positivity, in fact, they can often be downright vicious to those with whom they disagree. In this case, the majority seemed to have a rather casual attitude about the whole issue. In effect, "who cares?"

Naturally, there were some dissenters who wholehearted opposed what they see as a perverted lifestyle in their family friendly, wholesome sport. One told a married gay man with two children, "yeah, but you had to depend on a woman to have your children for you! because God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" Well, yeah, but couldn't the same be said for all adoptive parents, even the "normal" kind? Does that make their families any less legitimate?

(And speaking of Adam and Eve, exactly where did the rest of us come from? According to the Bible, Adam and Eve had two sons. Who were the mothers of their children since the only woman on earth at that time was, supposedly, their mother?)

And then, one commenter brought up the old "if we let men marry other men, where will it end"? idiocy. "Next", these people tell us, "people might decide they want to marry their dog or their goat and if we remove the restrictions about marriage, what's to stop them?"

Well, what's to stop them is very simple. Sex and/or marriage is between consenting adults....end of story. Your partner must be intelligent enough to make a freely offered choice. That precludes children, the severely developmentally disabled or presumably, goats and dogs. Marriage or sex cannot be based on fear or threats or force. That's what "freely offered" is all about.

Beyond that, as long as we are not doing one another harm, I really don't care. What about polygamy, you ask? In the accounts I've read, most polygamy did not involve free will. Girls were foisted off on men when they were still children, incapable of making an informed consent. This wasn't true marriage, it was child abuse disguised as marriage.

On the other hand, if one grown man and two grown women love each other and want to form a triumvirate, sharing everything they have with one another, that's okay with me. Human relationships are complex and personal and I've got no problem with letting them play out as they will.

So, eventually NASCAR will have a gay driver (or maybe already does). The only question should be: how good is he or she behind the wheel of a race car?. In Victory Lane, sexual preference is irrelevant.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?

- From the beginning, I have been wishy-washy about Edward Snowden. Is he a hero or a traitor? I simply haven't been able to reach a definitive conclusion in my own mind. I think he told the American people things we needed to know but did he also step over the line to give our enemies information that is detrimental to our security? Despite my ambivalence, I hope he makes his way safely to Venezuela or wherever he ends up. At least, that's what I hope with what I know as of now.

-  I think America handled the aftermath of 911 with stupidity and cowardice. We created a sweeping new law, the Patriot Act, that curtailed the freedoms of every day Americans. We created a huge new bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, that sucked mega-dollars out of our economy and did it in darkness, in secretive ways we were unaware of. We created massive new spying programs, again, without our knowledge, as revealed by Snowden. We created Guantanamo Bay so we could treat enemy combatants any way we chose, riding roughshod over the principles of fairness and justice and honor that America had stood for its entire existence. We, who had been primarily responsible for the Geneva Conventions, now shrugged off torture and extraordinary rendition as necessary evils. We embarked upon two wars, with 911 as the justification for each of them - one went on for 10 years and the other is still in effect 12 years later (our longest war) at a cost of trillions (we literally shipped bales of money on pallets to Iraq, money which was mostly squandered) and yet now our Republican congresspeople are horrified at the costs of Head Start and Meals on Wheels. But we still spend almost $1 million a year on maintaining each of the pathetic creatures in the limbo hell of Guantanamo. It is our national shame but the Republicans refuse to allow President Obama to shut down this horrible place because they are too terrified to allow these broken men on American soil, even in a super-max prison.

Prior to September 11, 2001, America was the land of the free and home of the brave. Since then, not so much.

- Did you know that Chief Justice John Roberts appoints all of the FISA court judges who dictate how and when and where our government can spy on us? Yep, every one. No one else has any say at all - not the president, not congress, not the other justices. He has appointed all 11 that currently serve (10 of whom were appointed by Republican presidents - hey, surprise!) He will continue to appoint all of them for decades into the long as he is Chief Justice. The FISA court is essentially a law unto itself. When Congress wrote the Patriot Act, they made it clear that in order to spy on Americans, the needed information must be immediately relevant to an on-going investigation. The FISA court changed the definition of the world relevant to "if, maybe, someday, possibly, at some point in the future" the information could become necessary, the government could go ahead and collect it now, just in case. Since it was created, the FISA court has heard approximately 34,000 petitions to spy on us. Guess how many it has rejected? Eleven.

So, really, I'm not sure who I think is more dangerous to our security - Edward Snowden or Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

- There is some talk going around that when we finally leave Afghanistan, we may not leave any Americans there at all. That's what the New York Times reported. Other sources denied that option is even being discussed. God, I hope the Times' account is correct. I think we should have been out by now, every single one of us. We've given Afghanistan enough of our blood and treasure. Leave it up to them now. Anyway, we aren't very good at picking winners and losers. Hamid Karzai is preferable to the Taliban but that's not to say, he isn't totally corrupt himself. Let them figure it out as best they can. Did all our years in Iraq do much good? Not so's you notice. Do they love us there for "setting them free"? Not so's you notice. I think its time to focus on America and let the rest of the world take care of itself.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

George Zimmerman Has the Winning Hand

I swore I wouldn't but I have....gotten caught up in the George Zimmerman trial, that is, even though I know I'm going to be disappointed in the end when George is acquitted. How could he not be? He holds all the cards. He got to give a recorded self-serving initial account to the police; he got to write a self-serving statement; he got to give a videoed self-serving re-enactment of the "crime"; he got to go on television for a sympathetic interview with Sean Hannity; his friend, the cop, wrote a fawning, exonerating book about him (and oh, my, did you see how prettily he blushed at even having to say "MF", much less the actual words it stands for...yeah, that's like the police officers I've known!) George isn't going to take the stand but in effect, he already has...several times. And with no cross-examination. Clever defense, huh?

And meanwhile, what does Trayvon say happened? Well, we don't know, do we, because Trayvon is dead.

So, this trial is going to boil down to credibility. You either believe Zimmerman is credible or you don't. You either believe George Zimmerman is a public-spirited Crime Watch volunteer courageously trying to protect his community from menacing young black thugs roaming its streets at night or you believe he set out to throw his wannabe-cop authority around.

I go with the second scenario. If you start at the very beginning, Zimmerman had no reason to suspect Trayvon of anything. He was coming from a convenience store with Skittles and iced tea going back to his father's house while talking to his friend on his cellphone. When asked why Zimmerman questioned Trayvon's right to be where he was, he said it was because it was raining but Trayvon wasn't hurrying to get out of the rain. Really, not walking fast enough in the rain is suspicious behavior for which you can wind up dead? Who knew?

Zimmerman called 911 to alert them that an undesirable was in his neighborhood. He was told not to follow Trayvon but to let the police handle the situation. George said he had every intention of doing that but he was parked in his car when Trayvon came up and circled it and oh, my God, he was so scared, he quickly rolled his windows up and sat there shaking in fear. Uh, huh, right. I guess that's why when Trayvon disappeared again, he got out of his vehicle and began wandering around in the dark, supposedly looking for an address. Yep, this Crime Watch guy who lives in a complex of about three streets didn't know where he was. That's believable, isn't it?

And then, Trayvon loomed up out of the dark again and asked, "do you have a problem with me, motherf***?" George said, "I don't want to have a problem with you," to which Trayvon replied, "well, you do now." Then Trayvon punched him and knocked him to the ground and straddled him and began banging his head into the sidewalk. Keep in mind that Trayvon weighed approximately 140 pounds and George weighed about 200 lbs....and that George had had some Mixed Martial Arts Training. Yet, he wasn't able to throw the boy off of him and gain the dominant position. Trayvon, evidently with the strength of ten, was able to hold this larger man down while covering his mouth with one hand and pinching his nostrils shut with the other, at the same time telling Zimmerman, "tonight is the night you're going to die".  Desperately, to hear George tell it, he grabbed Trayvon's wrist and pulled his hand off his mouth so he could breathe. It was about that same time that he felt Trayvon's hand at his side, obviously trying to grab his weapon. Well, what could George do but but yank it out of the holster and shoot Trayvon? At which point, Trayvon did cry out or gasp or groan, no, he very calmly said, "you got me". (Do you get the feeling that George Zimmerman has watched way too many Dirty Harry movies?) 

So, those are the basics of what happened. Of course, we also know that George had taken law enforcement courses. He was familiar with Florida's "stand your ground" law (although he pleaded ignorance to Sean Hannity) so he knew exactly the story he needed to tell. And it worked, didn't it? The initial reaction of Florida's authorities was a shrug and a pat on the head. "Go on home, George, you did what you had to do."

Much of this case revolves around what would be considered "reasonable' for an average person. When Zimmerman called 911 to report what had happened, he wasn't traumatized, he wasn't distraught, he wasn't hysterical, as you might assume would be "reasonable" for an average person who'd just killed someone, even if they thought they were forced to do it out of self-preservation. Nope, he was cool, calm and collected. Just another day's work in the life of a Neighborhood Watchman.

George Zimmerman carried his gun in the "fire-ready" position. He'd racked a bullet into the chamber, then took his clip out to fill the empty spot where that bullet had been. Is that "reasonable" behavior for a non-official Neighborhood Watch person? I truly don't know but it strikes me a over-eagerness, like you're just hoping for an excuse to shoot. Incidentally, Zimmerman described his action as "unholstering his sidearm", not simply "pulling" his gun as most citizens would say. So, he even got off on the vernacular of law enforcement. 

You know what else rears its ugly head in the Zimmerman case? Ah, yes, that would be race. Most opinions I have read on blogs or Facebook exhibit a bias in one direction or another. African-Americans and left-leaning types were outraged when Zimmerman was released without so much as a trial to try to determine the facts of the case. They felt it was because a "white" (who is actually partly Latino) shot a black kid that the decision on the part of law enforcement was what it was.

Meanwhile, conservatives were furious that the other side was able to raise so much stink as to cause the case to be reopened and charges to be brought against Zimmerman.

Liberals accuse conservatives of racial bigotry; conservatives accuse liberals of racial prejudice.

I have a different perspective. I don't have a hard-on against cops. I worked in law enforcement and loved my deputies and generally took their side. I don't think I have positive or negative feelings against either Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman for their ethnicity. Instead, I come at this as a mother.

If my child was innocently walking down the street where I lived, coming home from the convenience store with his Skittles and iced tea, I wouldn't expect some gung-ho asshole, in love with his image as a self-designated law enforcement office to follow him and eventually shoot him dead with a gun that he had in the "go" position. I think George Zimmerman overstepped his bounds. I think he lied about it after it was over. Maybe he didn't start out believing he was actually going to kill Trayvon Martin but he was obviously prepared to do just that. I think he needs to pay a price for that tragic mis-judgment.

But, unfortunately, I don't think he will. Because he holds the winning hand and all Trayvon got was the joker in the deck.