March 31, 2012

Thinking like Tom Wolfe about Trayvon and Zimmerman

So far, all we know of the last phone conversations between Trayvon Martin and his anonymous girlfriend is snatches of dialogue overseen by Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump (which, by the way, sounds like a name chosen by Tom Wolfe for a Bonfire of the Vanities character as a Dickensian tribute). Unfiltered by Crump and under oath, what might the girlfriend have to say?

Let's try thinking like Tom Wolfe: for maximum discomfiture. Here's a possibility that might come out at, say, a trial of George Zimmerman if Crump dares put the girlfriend on the stand and expose her to cross-examination: It's hardly implausible that Trayvon Martin might have worried that this strange man was following him in the dark for homoerotic purposes, and he might have mentioned that concern to his girlfriend over the phone. 

Of course, if he did, he probably wouldn't have used the term "homoerotic purposes." 

What if Trayvon used the (heavens) "3-letter F-word" to describe Zimmerman? What if he said to her, "I'm going to punch that f__ because I hate f___?"

Chaos in the courtroom ...

Of course, then we would be treated to learned disquisitions on how gaybashing is actually okay as long as the bashee isn't actually gay; or that what Trayvon actually meant was that he wanted to punch that pedophile and pedophile-bashing is A-OK.

March 30, 2012

Google News: "Trayvon" and "Omar Thornton"

Google News is a great tool for quantifying the Narrative. 

If you type in in "Trayvon Martin" into Google News (not overall Google, just into Google News), you get 34,700 results. So, that's our baseline.

Type in "Emmett Till" and you get 430 hits. Emmett Till is not as breaking news as Trayvon Martin, but he's by no means ignored in the press

Type in "James Byrd" and you get 146 hits.

Type in "Omar Thornton" and you get ... 1. It's just kind of a fluke that Google News still has it, since the story is from 2010:
Omar Thornton: "I Killed the Five Racists" - Crimesider - CBS
Aug 3, 2010 – Suspect Called Family After Massacre Read more by Kevin Hayes on CBS News' Crimesider.

Actually, it was not five but eight white men that Thornton murdered and then charged with racism in his call to 911, but who can remember that far back? That was over a year and a half ago. When the Attorney General asks to hold a national conversation about race and racism, this is not what he wants to talk about: the possibility that the long-running war on white racism jumped the shark some time ago into negative marginal returns and is now causing more murder than it prevents by firing up hotheads like Omar.

Dodgers: The rich get richer

Major league sports teams are playthings for rich guys, so one way to measure how rich the rich are in 2012 is by the going rate for sports teams. And, judging by the amazing price that Frank McCourt got for the Los Angeles Dodgers from a consortium of rich guys fronted by retired NBA star Magic Johnson, the rich are very rich these days. Economist Andrew Zimbalist told ESPN:
"Here's a guy [McCourt] who borrowed practically all the money to buy the team for $430 million [in 2004] and now he's selling it for $2.15 billion and he's coming out with a healthy capital gain -- it's repulsive. This is someone who doesn't deserve to walk away with a healthy profit after eight years of running the Dodgers in the most egregious, the most inefficient, the most self-interested, and the most vainglorious, idiotic way possible. It really is repulsive that he will still be making a profit in some way."

C'mon, Andy, don't hold back. Tell us what you really feel.
Prior to the sale, many economists believed the price tag of the Dodgers would surpass the $845 million the Chicago Cubs sold for in 2009, which was the most ever for an MLB team. Most figured it would be around the $1.1 billion figure the Miami Dolphins fetched three years ago, which was a record price for a professional sports team in North America. In the end, the sale of the Dodgers shattered both marks and set a world record, surpassing even the $1.47 billion Manchester United went for in 2005. 
"It's the craziest deal ever; it makes no sense. That's why you saw so many groups drop out," said Mark Rosentraub, a University of Michigan sports management professor. "I don't get it. The numbers just don't work. It doesn't make business sense. Nobody came up with this number. Under the most favorable circumstance you broke $1.1 billion with $1.4 billion getting crazy. Now you're up in the $2 billion range, which is over $800 million more than what pencils out for a profitable investment for a baseball team. If making money doesn't count, this is a great move. But now we're into buying art and I can't value art. I can just run the model numbers and this doesn't make sense."

The theory is that the Internet will deliver most pre-recorded entertainment cheaply, so cable TV needs live entertainment to keep charging huge monthly fees, so that means sports. But, baseball is a great game for the age of radio (the Dodgers' announcer Vin Scully, has been with them since 1950 in Brooklyn).Is baseball really the Televised Sport of the Future?

Dodger Stadium, which opened fifty years ago at the peak of Southern California's arc in 1962, is a rare Modernist structure that's beloved by the public. It was designed for a more egalitarian age, with a big seating capacity (56,000) but not a lot of luxury. The trend in recent years has been toward smaller ballparks catering toward the corporate entertainment crowd.

The neighborhoods around Dodger Stadium are gentrifying as interest in urban living continues to grow, so the new buyers might have some kind of plan for home construction on the surrounding  parking lots or undeveloped land. But, still, the stadium is on a small mountaintop, so it's hard to see how they could pull that off.

So, either the winners badly overpaid (but even the runners-up in the auction offered more than for Manchester United), or rich guys have a lot of money in 2012.

March 29, 2012

It depends on what the meaning of the word "existence" is

Naive me had always assumed from all the news reports that the news media had access to a recording of Trayvon Martin's last phone call. After all, Matt Gutman of ABC News had trumpeted back on March 20:
Trayvon Martin's Last Phone Call Triggers Demand for Arrest 'Right Now' 
A phone call from slain black teenager Trayvon Martin to his girlfriend seconds before he was shot dead by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain "blows ... out of the water" the shooter's self-defense claim and he should be arrested "right now," a lawyer for Martin's family said today. 
Attorney Benjamin Crump spoke after ABC News reported exclusively the existence of a phone call between Martin and his girlfriend, which detailed the last terrifying moments of Martin's life as he was pursued, accosted and shot dead by George Zimmerman. 

I didn't really think about it, so I just assumed from the word "existence" that the contents of the phone call were recorded by, uh, Echelon, or that kids these days have an app that puts every word of every phone call they make on their Permanent Records, or something like that. Obviously, I'm not really up on the latest technology, so I just assumed that if everybody is talking about the existence of a phone call, then it exists.

But, now, Gucci Little Piggy has pointed out that this phone call's existence is not "existence" in the sense that there's any record of what was said on the phone call other than what the girlfriend and attorney Benjamin Crump said weeks later was on the phone call. When ABC claimed:
Martin's father, Tracey Martin, and mother, Sybrina Fulton, listened to the call, along with ABC News, ashen-faced.

It may sound like they mean ABC News listened to Trayvon's last call, but, in reality, they all just listened to attorney Crump put the anonymous girlfriend through her paces for their benefit, and they weren't even allowed to watch her, just listen to her over the phone.

G.L. Piggy was wondering what the relationship between Crump and ABC's Gutman is. I suggested that he should read the sections in Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities where attorney Albert Vogel, an ally of Rev. Bacon, takes reporter Peter Fallow out to lunches to feed him bits of the story.

It's called access journalism, and that's how the game is played. The cops and the D.A. have their favorite reporters, as well.

Movie stars play the game, too. If they slip up, like Tom Cruise did when he fired super-publicist Pat Kingsley and nepotistically replaced her with his amateurish sister, their media image can suddenly go from World's Greatest Guy to Manic Repressed Homosexual Cultist overnight. (If you look at Tom Cruise's actual movies, he continues to appear in consistently above-average films. All that happened was that he lost control of the access journalism game.)

G.L. Piggy points out that people shouldn't get over-invested in believing in George Zimmerman's complete innocence. There may well be evidence against him right now that is being sandbagged for use at a later juncture. That, by the way, was one of the late Andrew Breitbart's favorite tactics -- don't release everything right away. Release some of it now and then when the other side goes all in, whomp them with some more facts you already had in hand. Repeat as necessary. 

The best guidebook to how this story will play out is of course Bonfire, with Trayvon Martin as Henry Lamb. Think back to how that plot ambiguously unfolds. Is anybody completely innocent? 

Wolfe's Bonfire, by the way, is 25 years old, but nothing much ever changes. Every few years we go through another one of these re-enactments of Bonfire, like the Duke lacrosse hoax. Isn't it about time to admit that Bonfire has turned out to be, just as Wolfe bragged, the Great American Novel of our lifetime? Sure, the setting gets pushed out from NYC to some exurb in the middle of nowhere, the reporters are less alcoholic, and the Great White Defendant morphs into the Pudgy Mestizo Defendant, but the basics are here to stay. Heck, Al Sharpton is still around!

In case you are wondering, yes, the Rev. Bacon in Wolfe's novel is more or less Al Sharpton functionally, but their personalities are very different. Bacon is cold and serious, while Sharpton is very funny. Reporter Peter Fallow is not particularly Christopher Hitchens. He's more Anthony Haden-Guest, the illegitimate brother of actor / aristocrat Christopher Guest. Lawyer Albert Vogel is presumably radical leftist attorney William Kunstler. The Mayor of New York is roughly Mayor Ed Koch. The tall, rawboned explosively crazy white man who appears briefly in an early courtroom scene is likely Hunter S. Thompson.  

Latest Crop Crisis

You know how every year the press repackages a fill-in-the-blanks press release from a grower's association about how Crop A (or Crop B or Crop C) is rotting in the fields of X (or Y or Z) because of the Peasant Shortage? The L.A. Times has taken the Crop Crisis template global:
In India, lots of coconuts but a dwindling crop of pickers 
Coconut farmers in lush Kerala state find it increasingly difficult to hire people, as younger workers shun manual labor for more prestigious jobs.
... They're just plain lazy," said K.P. Peter, a small-time coconut farmer. "They get all sorts of subsidies from the government, don't show up on time, leave us stranded. There should be a law against such irresponsibility."

Here is a part of the article that's better than the American versions, however:
As part of their search for pickers, industry groups have looked to the likes of Thailand and Indonesia ...

So, there aren't enough poor people in India? Oh ... wait a minute ...
... countries that train monkeys to pluck the coconuts. (Understandably, some local workers find the prospect of being replaced by a monkey mildly insulting.) 
But the monkeys aren't quite working out. 
"The problem is, the monkeys climb but can't tell what's ripe and just harvest everything," said Sree Kumar, a professor at the College of Agriculture in Kerala's capital, Thiruvananthapuram. 
In a bid to broaden the labor pool, the Coconut Board's Friends of the Coconut Tree program is trying to recruit women — picking has traditionally been man's work — older workers and anyone else who dreams of reaching for the fronds. 
The board's six-day Friends course trains people to use climbing devices, allowing even the most uncoordinated workers to get themselves up a trunk, provided they stifle any fear of heights, which can reach 100 feet. (We're talking a 10-story building.) The climbing devices, in sitting and standing models, cost about $50 and work by ratcheting the rider up the trunk with a foot-powered device. Around for at least 30 years, they were upgraded in 2010 with rust-resistant materials and a revolutionary new feature: a safety belt.

A safety belt? What's the world coming to when an employer is expected to provide a safety belt for an employee working only 100 feet off the ground?

Later on, the article explains that workers used to be "paid in coconuts," but now they get paid in money. I bet you could get a reporter in America to write, with a straight-face, that paying workers in coconuts "is good for the economy."

By the way, I think there's a fair chance that L.A. Times reporter Mark Magnier actually gets the joke and is consciously parodying all the economic logic-defying articles the prestige press has run over the years about how there is a Shortage of this type of worker or that type of worker.

Maybe one of these days they'll run an article about how there is a shortage of Apple stock. I would be happy to pay what I feel is a reasonable price for a share of Apple stock -- say, $10 per share -- but there is a Shortage of Apple stock available at the price I want to pay, so Something Ought to Be Done About It. (Maybe, like, I should be able to print up my own undocumented shares of Apple common stock without the government getting all huffy about the law and stuff.) And they can quote me on that.

Marco Rubio's Veep chances spiking

A commenter points us to this Intrade betting market chance showing Marco Rubio's probability of being the Republican Veep spiking last week, before falling off a little bit. Today, Rubio endorsed Romney. Rubio is at 33% and nobody else is above 10%. I'm guessing that is somewhat due to punters hypothesizing in complicated fashions about the Trayvon thingie involving a White Hispanic in Florida. 

Helluva a way to pick a potential President ...

Admittedly, I haven't paid much attention to Rubio, but doesn't he have Good-Looking Local Small-Timer written all over him? Not that there's anything wrong with that. The guy is only 40-years-old and doesn't particularly appear to be a quick learner, either. 

I realize the neocons and the Tea Partiers both like him, but still ... If he was the exact same guy, but just had an Italian rather than Spanish surname, I'd think he'd be getting talked up as a potential Lt. Governor, not as Vice-President heir apparent. 

Is this the best we can do?

March 28, 2012

Everything's a travesty with you, man

In this country of 300,000,000+, it shouldn't be too hard for the national media to come up with actual news stories to illustrate its favorite themes of White Racism, the Invalidity of Stereotypes, and so forth. And yet, when the prestige press decides to go all in on a story to Push the Narrative, like Duke Lacrosse case or Jena Six, they usually seem to wind up with another travesty, playing Walter Sobchak with poor Donnie's ashes at the end of The Big Lebowski (video).

The Trayvon Martin story was supposed to demonstrate how white people invidiously stereotype young black males and get away with murder because they are white. First, though, it turned out that George Zimmerman wasn't what most people are told to think of as white.

Then it turned out the poor Trayvon had never gotten the anti-stereotyping message himself. In fact, judging from his Twitter account, Trayvon loved stereotypes of young black males as violent, criminal, and dangerous, and was working hard to polish his own thug image.

For his Twitter handle, he chose the title of a rap song that I won't repeat (but you can listen to it here and read the lyrics here), by Kane and Abel and featuring C-Murder. According to Wikipedia, "Corey Miller (born March 9, 1971), better known by his stage name C-Murder, is an American rapper and convicted murderer."

(By the way, what's the deal with the gold foil on the teeth? I guess I'm out of touch with today's youth because I don't get that at all.)

This, the three suspensions from school, the school's suspicion of jewel thievery or fencing ... well, none of this is terribly conclusive, but it should give pause to the mainstream media's drive to rile up lynch mobs to go after the shooter. First, it suggests that Zimmerman's assessment of Trayvon as a potential burglar was, in fact, quite reasonable. He was found by his school with a backpack of silver jewelry for which he had no persuasive explanation.

Second, it adds weight to the notion that Zimmerman's version of the fatal encounter is conceivable. That doesn't mean it's wholly accurate, it just means that it doesn't sound terribly implausible.

Being a frothing at the mouth extremist, unlike the mainstream media, my view of this case has been that patience is the best advice. It reminds me of the homicide case against Michael Jackson's doctor for giving him that sleeping drug, in which the criminal justice system took over a half year to decide whether or not to arrest him. The doctor wasn't going anywhere, so what's the hurry? Get all the facts and think through the law. (I still don't know if that case was rightly decided, but I feel a little better that the authorities took their time about it and weren't stampeded into overly quick actions.)

As more facts emerge, the criminal justice system's behavior seems fairly reasonable. The myth is that the racist cops immediately let Zimmerman go due to White Privilege, but, in reality, they cuffed him and took him down to the station. There, he was questioned and the prosecutors decided that they didn't have a strong enough case to arrest him at present. Presumably, he has enough ties to the community relative to the only moderate severity of any potential charge, so he wasn't likely to go on the lam before they might change their mind.

One interesting argument I saw in an anonymous comment was the assertion that Zimmerman's father, who is some kind of judge, brought some sort of influence to bear on the prosecutors, or that at least the state listened more sympathetically to Zimmerman's story because of who his father was. I don't know of much evidence for or against this claim, one way or another, but it does not sound utterly implausible. But since it's too idiosyncratic to fit well into the main Racial Narrative that everybody is worked up over, it's been largely ignored.

What general lesson can society draw from the Trayvon case? Well, there's a win-win solution for how to get people to stop stereotyping young black males as thugs. Blacks should stop trying so damn hard to act like thugs.

P.S. A commenter writes:
"And yet, when the prestige press decides to go all in on a story to Push the Narrative, like Duke Lacrosse case or Jena Six, they usually seem to wind up with another travesty..." 
They've eaten their own dog food. On the conscious level they actually believe their message. If they didn't, they'd look hard for the extremely rare cases of actual white-on-black rape and unprovoked violence. But since they do believe the message that they're spouting, they think that white racism is everywhere and that they don't have to look hard for it at all. Almost any case that involves whites and blacks will do. And when their message is reliably contradicted by that almost-any-case, they just think that THAT's an exception.

Yes, that makes sense. Everybody is an amateur statistician, and most people behave in their personal lives like pretty accurate ones (e.g., Jesse Jackson feels relief when he discovers that the people walking behind him down a dark street are white). But a working definition of a person who feels himself elite in modern America is that he doesn't integrate what he's learned from his daily life with his understanding of public affairs. There is mundane knowledge that you use when picking out where to live or where to send your child to school, but only ignorant people apply that knowledge to thinking about what's in the news. Instead, people with class only apply to their Higher Thought the Higher Knowledge that they picked up from reading, say, To Kill a Mockingbird in junior high school.

My view, in contrast is that, as the motto of Faber College in Animal House, pointed out: "Knowledge is good." The more we know, the better for everybody, overall. There shouldn't be disreputable knowledge that's kept apart from reputable knowledge. All knowledge is good.

I've been told that the reason it's bad for me to quote the Justice Department statistics on homicide rates by race is because everybody knows that and takes that into account when it comes to public policy, so it's just rude to mention it. But I see little evidence that elites are able to take into account Justice Department statistics in their Higher Thinking without articulating them in public. Instead, we just see repeated travesties in the press.

I'd add to the commenter's point that the media wants to find examples of whites not only doing terrible things to blacks but getting away with them because of White Privilege. And that turns out to be especially hard to find in 2012, contra so much that you are told by Hollywood and the press.

For example, here is an account of the sentencing to life imprisonment of a white teen in Mississippi last week who killed a black man for racist fun. (I suspect it was also a gaybashing, but that seems to have been not emphasized, for whatever reasons). This case got a fair amount of national publicity, much more than a case of blacks killing a white for fun would have. I watch about an hour of TV per week and yet even I'd seen it on a national news show many months ago.

Nonetheless, it was ultimately unsatisfying to the prestige press. They couldn't flog it too hard because there wasn't much controversy over it. It was understood to be a horrible crime, and justice was served. So, it's ultimately another boring and depressing story about lowlifes, just with the races aligned in the approved manner.

In contrast, the Trayvon tale sounded to the mainstream media like the case they'd been dreaming of since J-school: white man kills black child in cold blood and is freed because of White Privilege! So, they fell hard for a story molded by a lawyer and pushed by Al Sharpton. Not surprisingly, it turns out to be a lot more complicated and ambiguous, but by now they are all in, so they'll just have to push harder to denounce skeptics as racists. When you own the Megaphone, that's what you do.

"The Hunger Games" v. Heinlein's "Tunnel in the Sky"

The Hunger Games can be compared to scores of predecessors in terms of plot and setting, but one likely inspiration that is widely overlooked is Robert A. Heinlein's 1955 young adult sci-fi novel Tunnel in the Sky, in which several dozen boys and girls must survive in the wilds for about a week on an unknown planet to pass their Advanced Survival course. 

A major problem with at least the movie version of The Hunger Games is the almost complete lack of discussion of tactics. Supposedly, this fight to the death competition has been broadcast to universal audiences on TV for 74 years, but almost nobody seems to have developed any strategies for playing despite all their watching. All the sympathetic characters are just depressed by it, which is natural, but, jeez, we get it, you are feeling sad about this. And the unsympathetic characters have little of interest to say, either. Finally, 15 seconds before the competition starts, the heroine's coach (Woody Harrelson) gives her some advice -- don't rush in to grab a weapon right away and go for high ground. So, while half the kids die in the first minute trying to grab weapons from the big pile, Katniss runs off deep into the woods and climbs a tree to hide to wait things out until the odds are more in her favor.

Now, that's fairly interesting, and it likely is lifted directly from Tunnel in the Sky, which begins with a long talk between the hero Rod Walker (who eventually appears to be black, by the way) and his older sister, a Captain in the Space Amazons, who passed the test a decade before. She advises against taking high tech weaponry that will just make him feel arrogant. He decides to hole up in a tree and wait it out.

But, in Heinlein's book, a technical glitch ends up marooning them for several years. Tunnel in the Sky is sometimes assumed to be Heinlein's rejoinder to William Golding's Lord of the Flies, in which the young people descend to savagery, although Golding's book didn't become well-known until several years later, when it became a favorite of teachers to show their classes what they'd be like without any adult discipline.

In contrast to Lord of the Flies, Tunnel in the Sky starts out with some Hobbesian violence, but the book is devoted to how young people, thrust into this classic conception of a "state of nature" where the individual life expectancy is solitary, poor, brutish, and short could come together to form a society that works in terms of physical security, technology, politics, and economics. Heinlein was a huge fan of the American frontier experience, so much of his sci-fi is devoted to finding outer space situations to recreate the challenges faced by settlers. The ratio of interesting ideas to pages is extraordinarily high. Heinlein thinks through all sorts of problems, such as how do you find other people to team up with (set green branches on fire, like in The Hunger Games) while you hide at an overlook to see whether they are too dangerous for you.

By the end of Tunnel in the Sky several years later, the kids have settled in a riverfront cave defensible against wild animals, have found clay deposits and are working on a pottery kiln, and are taking the first steps toward agriculture and irrigation. They are enjoying a deserved baby boom. Everybody agrees that they'll never go back. Of course, when they're rescued, almost everybody except a recalcitrant Rod quickly decides to go home to Earth. A lady newscaster much like Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games has her make-up man paint war stripes on Rod's face for her interstellar broadcast about how the teens immediately reverted to savagery. 

In contrast, the kill or be killed rules of The Hunger Games are simply too Hobbesian to sustain interest over the course of a television season. A reality series like Survivor, which Collins was obviously influenced by, has much better thought out rules that inspire both cooperation and backstabbing.

March 27, 2012

"The Hunger Games"

From my review of the hugely popular and critically acclaimed movie in Taki's Magazine:
The Hunger Games addresses today’s most burning social issues: Would a reality TV show that forces boys and girls to hunt down and slaughter each other with edged weapons be a good idea? Should America switch to a totalitarian dictatorship in which the decadent Capitol economically exploits the twelve starving Districts and annually demands two children from each as “tributes” to compete in the Hunger Games in which 23 of the 24 will die horribly? 
Or, when you stop to think about it, is televised child butchery actually a bad thing?

Many pundits have engaged in complicated disputes over what the subtext of the movie is, but I reveal Occam's explanation of the true deep meaning of The Hunger Games here.

Here we go again ...

They never learn, do they?

Just a week ago, the New York Times was explaining how the upcoming French election would be affected by how immigration-restrictionist talk had inspired that neo-Nazi to kill those Jewish kids in Toulouse.

Then, it was all about all the time how an evil white racist had hunted down and murdered in cold-blood cuddly 12-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Here's the Daily Mail's capacious account of the current state of a story that is hard to get in one piece from the American press.)

Now, splashed big on the New York Times today:
Iraqi Immigrants in California Town Fear a Hate Crime in a Woman’s Killing 
EL CAJON, Calif. — Shaima Alawadi’s family says they found the first note taped to the front door of their house on a quiet suburban street here. It said: “This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist,” according to her 15-year-old son, Mohammed. 
Ms. Alawadi’s husband, Kassim Alhimidi, says he wanted to call the police. But his wife said no, insisting the note was only a child’s prank. Like many others in the neighborhood, the couple were immigrants from Iraq. In 17 years in the United States, they had been called terrorists before, he said. 
But last Wednesday, Ms. Alawadi was found in the family’s dining room by her 17-year-daughter, lying unconscious in a puddle of blood with a severe head wound. Nearby lay another threatening note, similar to the one the family found a week earlier. 
Ms. Alawadi, 32, died three days later. The police caution against jumping to conclusions, saying they are still trying to determine whether she was targeted because of her religion or ethnicity, calling that just one possibility. 

Yes, 32 minus 17 equals 15.
“At this point, we are not calling it a hate crime,” said Lt. Mark Coit of the El Cajon police. “We haven’t made that determination. We are calling it an isolated incident, because we don’t have any evidence of anything similar going on at this point.” 
Whatever the police eventually determine, the crime has shattered the sense of security for Iraqi immigrants in El Cajon, exposing cultural tensions and distrust that have often simmered just below the surface since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

I dunno. Maybe the El Cajon Klan did it. It could be.

On the other hand, does this sound like a normal hate crime? Compare it to a typical hate crime, such as the assault on blogger Matthew Yglesias last May: man walking alone after dark through another racial group's neighborhood gets beaten up by a couple of strangers. No notes are left.

So, does this suburban San Diego story strike you as a little dubious? The local hate crimeists don't start with say, graffiti or window-breaking, they go right to home invasion and murdering a housewife, but not raping her. And, then, instead of burning a fiery cross, they leave a note. Okay, I suppose ...

From the L.A. Times, a more cautious account:
Alawadi was discovered by the couple's 17-year-old daughter, Fatima, who also reported finding the note near her mother's bloody body. A similar note was taped to the front door several days earlier, she told police, although that note was not preserved. 
El Cajon police have not ruled out the possibility that the killing was a hate crime. But Police Chief Jim Redman also said that there is "other evidence" besides the note and that police have not determined a motive or identified a suspect or even a "person of interest." 
Redman said police are confident the killing is "an isolated incident" and not part of a campaign of violence aimed at the large Iraqi immigrant community in the suburbs east of San Diego.

Colleen Curry of ABC News is even less rabble-rousing:
Despite a hate-filled note found at the murder scene of an Iraqi mother in California, police today are emphasizing that other evidence found during the investigation has them convinced the killing was an isolated incident that poses no danger to other Iraqis. 
Police in El Cajon, Calif., said they will still look into whether the murder of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi could be classified a hate-crime, but Police Chief James Redman said that "based on the evidence thus far, we believe this is an isolated incident." 
The beating death of the Iraqi mother of five sent shock waves through the community of El Cajon, which has one of the largest concentrations of Iraqi immigrants in America. Twitter and Facebook users created hashtags and pages in Alawadi's honor, comparing the targeting of Alawadi for wearing a hijab to that of Florida teen Trayvon Martin for wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Police, however, have not said that Alawadi was targeted for wearing a hijab. 
"I want to stress there is other evidence in this case that we are looking at, and the possibility of a hate crime is just one of the aspects of this investigation," Redman said today.

The ABC News report made it clearer what Chief Redman's statement that he believed this was "an isolated incident, means:
"Police declined to elaborate, but crime experts said that usually suggests the victim knows the attacker."

So, why is the New York Times making a big deal over a police blotter item from 3,000 miles away? Especially because by giving their international credence to the hate crime supposition, they might spark who knows what kind of violence among hot-heads in Iraq?

It could be that this is some hate conspiracy. But it sure sounds like the cops know more than they are telling, so why didn't the New York Times wait until they found out what the cops know that they don't yet know before splashing this big?

People give Freud a hard time these days, but his concept of "projection" remains a valuable one when reading the newspaper. There is, as always, a lot of hatred and hysteria in the world today. And there's clearly money to be made by fanning the flames of hate.

The growing SPLCization of the prestige press is frightening. I realize that times are tough for everybody, and that the Southern Poverty Law Center has a gold-plated track record of piling up hundreds of millions of dollars via spreading fear and hate in the guise of fighting hate, so it's not surprising that the national media is following the path the SPLC has pioneered. But this is scary stuff to play around with to make money.

Trayvon: How the Case Was Spun

From the NYT:
March 25, 2012 
In Slain Teenager’s Case, a Long Route to National Attention 
Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was fatally shot on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The next day his death was a top story on the Fox-affiliated television station in Orlando, the closest big city to Sanford. Within a week it was being covered by newspapers around the state. 
But it took several weeks before the rest of the country found out. 
It was not until mid-March, after word spread on Facebook and Twitter, that the shooting of Trayvon by George Zimmerman, 28, was widely reported by the national news media, highlighting the complex ways that news does and does not travel in the Internet age.

To me, the obvious comparison is to how fast the news spread in the local shooting of an 18-year-old by a federal agent and a local cop that I did some amateur snooping into a few years ago. However, that wouldn't be an obvious comparison for anybody else because the news of that shooting never spread much at all. Exactly 168 hours after the killing, my wife and I ran into the dead youth's parents standing alone at the scene of the crime trying to figure make sense of the sketchy handful of datapoints the police had deigned to release, and the fishy-sounding spin they had put on the story. We encouraged the mother to pursue a lawsuit to bring the facts out.

It's not surprising that that case didn't spread because Stuff Happens all the time in a huge country like America, and the dead kid didn't have an identity politics team rooting for him.
That Trayvon’s name is known at all is a testament to his family, which hired a tenacious lawyer to pursue legal action and to persuade sympathetic members of the news media to cover the case. Just as important, family members were willing to answer the same painful questions over and over at news conferences and in TV interviews.

Indeed, but it definitely helps to have a racial angle. (Or have a beautiful white daughter.) There is a deep hunger in America for Real Life Cases of evil white racists slaughtering black children to validate all those countless works of fiction. In the case I looked into, the dead youth turned out to be white, so there was no
Notably, many of the national media figures who initially devoted time to the shooting are black, which some journalists and advocacy groups say attests to the need for diversity in newsrooms. The racial and ethnic makeup of newsrooms, where minorities tend to be underrepresented relative to the general population, has long been a source of tension for the news industry.

In other words, the Trayvon story was promoted by affirmative action beneficiaries who want to use the story to get more affirmative action.
... National coverage increased somewhat the week of March 12, but really intensified only after March 16, when tapes of 911 calls were released, showing that Mr. Zimmerman had been told by a dispatcher that he did not need to follow Trayvon. Having the audio — which the police had previously declined to release — was critical because it gave radio and TV reporters more material for their segments and because it aroused more suspicion about Mr. Zimmerman.

The criminal justice system holds most of the cards that news stories can be constructed from. In my local shooting, for instance, there was one eyewitness, whose name was not released by the cops to the parents in the first 168 hours. The cops first arrested him, then released him, then arrested him again, then released him. Eventually, he posted his version of the story online in a blog comment, which I forwarded to the mother's attorney.

The other main players in the game are civil suit attorneys, who are entitled to eventually see the police files. They mold a lot of stories for the press.
Within days of the national media scrutiny, the Justice Department said it would investigate the case, and on March 23, President Obama addressed it directly, furthering the media dialogue.

 Of course, as it turns out, there were a huge number of other facts that the national media and the President didn't have. None of these facts, like that young Trayvon was working hard on developing a Thug Life vibe for himself, shouldn't have come as a surprise.

In theory, this should prove embarrassing to the press and President, but, you are forgetting that they hold the Microphone, they promote the Narrative, and you are just an Evil Racist, so Shut Up with all your little hatefacts.
On television, the family spoke early and often to the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist who has radio shows and an MSNBC television show. He was made aware of the shooting by Mr. Crump, who had previously enlisted Mr. Sharpton to speak out against the death of a Florida boy at a boot camp in 2006.

As you go through life, it's a good idea to learn and remember the name of the appropriate local sleazebag attorney who is plugged into your appropriate national identity politics sleazebags like the Rev. Al. For example, if you are a woman in California and you want to sue a man for anything, get in touch with Gloria Allred.
“The attorney called and said, ‘I need you again,’ ” Mr. Sharpton recalled in a telephone interview from Florida, where he staged a rally Thursday night to call for justice. He took his radio and TV shows with him, thereby amplifying his call.
Mr. Sharpton has used his shows for all manner of advocacy He analogized radio, with its hours of airtime and calls from listeners, to “ground forces” and MSNBC as “air strikes” and said, “If you have a war, you’re going to need both.”

And who has a better track record of credibility than Al Sharpton? As I wrote in 2005:
Indeed, the reputation of [Tom Wolfe's] first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, has suffered because its plot is now often thought of as a pastiche of stories ripped from the headlines about Al Sharpton's Tawana Brawley hoax, the arrest of the bond king Michael Milken, the Crown Heights anti-Semitic pogrom, the Rodney King riots, and the O.J. Simpson case. 
But Bonfire appeared in 1987 … before all those events it seemingly reflects. 
America's most distinguished jurist-intellectual, Richard A. Posner, has admitted this in his book Overcoming Law
"When I first read The Bonfire of the Vanities … it just didn't strike me as the sort of book that has anything interesting to say about the law or any other institution…. I now consider that estimate of the book ungenerous and unperceptive. The Bonfire of the Vanities has turned out to be a book that I think about a lot, in part because it describes with such vividness what Wolfe with prophetic insight (the sort of thing we attribute to Kafka) identified as emerging problems of the American legal system… American legal justice today seems often to be found at a bizarre intersection of race, money, and violence, an intersection nowhere better depicted than in The Bonfire of the Vanities even thought the book was written before the intersection had come into view."

Thank God the prestige press has such close contacts with a man with such a disinterested obsession with truth as the Rev. Al. 

March 26, 2012

The Real Story on the Trayvon Story

The Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman brouhaha is just a hoax generated by Tom Wolfe's publisher to push his upcoming novel set in Florida, Back to Blood

Was Trayvon a burglar?

From Slate:
George Zimmerman's Long, Lonely War Against Black Youths Doing Things 
By David Weigel | Posted Friday, March 23, 2012, at 1:37 PM ET 
Adam Weinstein and Matt DeLuca have pulled the logs of 911 calls that George Zimmerman made before this year's shooting. Spot the pattern. From Weinstein: 
In August 2011, he called to report a black male in a tank top and shorts acting suspicious near the development's back entrance. "[Complainant] believes [subject] is involved in recent S-21s"—break-ins—"in the neighborhood," the call log states. The suspect, Zimmerman told the dispatcher, fit a recent description given out by law enforcement officers. 

Three days later, he called to report two black teens in the same area, for the same reason. "[Juveniles] are the subjs who have been [burglarizing] in this area," he told the dispatcher. 
From DeLuca: 
On April 22, 2011, Zimmerman called to report a black male about “7-9” years old, four feet tall, with a “skinny build” and short black hair. There is no indication in the police report of the reason for Zimmerman’s suspicion of the boy.

Add this to Trayvon call, when Zimmerman apparently muttered a racial slur, and you have to ask if Zimmerman had a hang-up about young black men in the gated community.

It's okay for Weigel to spot the pattern that Zimmerman apparently spotted the pattern of which demographic is most likely to engage in crime against his community, because Weigel is engaging in pattern recognition in the service of approved Who? Whom? morality.

Keeping that in mind, we can therefore see that this new story from the Miami Herald showing that poor Trayvon apparently had been connected to burglary only makes Zimmerman's pattern recognizing that much more culpable:

From the Miami Herald:
As thousands of people gathered here to demand an arrest in the Trayvon Martin case, a more complicated portrait began to emerge of a teenager whose problems at school ranged from getting spotted defacing lockers to getting caught with a marijuana baggie and women’s jewelry. 
The Miami Gardens teen who has become a national symbol of racial injustice was suspended three times, and had a spotty school record that his family’s attorneys say is irrelevant to the facts that led up to his being gunned down on Feb. 26. 
In October, a school police investigator said he saw Trayvon on the school surveillance camera in an unauthorized area “hiding and being suspicious.” Then he said he saw Trayvon mark up a door with “W.T.F” — an acronym for “what the f---.” The officer said he found Trayvon the next day and went through his book bag in search of the graffiti marker. 
Instead the officer reported he found women’s jewelry and a screwdriver that he described as a “burglary tool,” according to a Miami-Dade Schools Police report obtained by The Miami Herald. Word of the incident came as the family’s lawyer acknowledged that the boy was suspended in February for getting caught with an empty bag with traces of marijuana, which he called “irrelevant” and an attempt to demonize a victim. 
Trayvon’s backpack contained 12 pieces of jewelry, in addition to a watch and a large flathead screwdriver, according to the report, which described silver wedding bands and earrings with diamonds. 
Trayvon was asked if the jewelry belonged to his family or a girlfriend.
“Martin replied it’s not mine. A friend gave it to me,” he responded, according to the report. Trayvon declined to name the friend. 
Trayvon was not disciplined because of the discovery, but was instead suspended for graffiti, according to the report. School police impounded the jewelry and sent photos of the items to detectives at Miami-Dade police for further investigation. ... 
No evidence ever surfaced that the jewelry was stolen.

Old Views (with one new twist)

My view of the Trayvon Martin tragedy is that A) Messed up stuff like this happens all the time all across the country, like in a parking lot a few miles from me when an officer of the Obama Administration shot an 18-year-old violist, with media reaction barely above crickets chirping; B) There was no need to hurry to arrest Zimmerman since he wasn't a flight risk, and has, indeed, only made himself scarce lately due to his reasonable fear of being murdered by some hothead enraged by the Respectable Media. C) This doesn't mean that Zimmerman shouldn't eventually be charged with something once all the facts are available. Or, D) then again, maybe not. I don't know all the facts and I don't know all the laws.

The more general issue is that this giant Prestige Press Hatefest is part of their ever ongoing War on Knowledge. Zimmerman is being accused of the hate crime of Noticing Patterns: that the main criminal threat to his community are young male blacks. Now, nobody has any problem with him being ageist and sexist when doing his community watch. No, his unforgivable fault is that, presumably, like everybody else, Zimmerman was no doubt aware of the racial pattern in crime. After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

Here's something that we'll likely never know, but that would turn everybody's brains inside out if it happened to emerge: What if (and this is purely hypothetical) poor Trayvon Martin's thinking was: "Who is this guy following me? If he was a white guy, I'd figure he's just a neighborhood do-gooder so I don't have much to worry about. But he doesn't look white, he looks like some kind of drug-dealing Latin, and everybody knows in Florida that they're often gangsters. Didn't you see Scarface? So I'd better get the drop on him and punch Scarface here out before he tries to rob me or kill me for stepping on his drug-dealing turf."

Or, what if Trayvon's uncle liked to lecture him on how oppressive Hispanic cops had caused the 1982 and 1988 Miami riots by abusing African-Americans, and we shouldn't let the Hispanics push us around anymore and act like they own Florida.

As I said, we'll never know, but for the sake of cognitive exercise, assume that a heretofore unknown text message from Trayvon to a friend is discovered saying more or less that his fear of Zimmerman and motivation for confronting him was motivated by his prejudice against mestizos.

Your assignment: In three mental chess moves or less, prove that this would still be All the White Man's Fault.

New News

Gucci Little Piggy has a fine series of posts updating developments in the Martin-Zimmerman tragedy.

Why no police investigation of a racial hate crime?

Now that the Trayvon Martin case has raised awareness of racial bias and hate crimes on the streets of America, it's time to look into other cases that were ignored by the cops. 

For example, on May 14, 2011, Matthew Yglesias, now of Slate and a prominent advocate of urban ambulation, was walking home from dinner with pundits Megan McArdle of The Atlantic and Peter Suderman of Reason. In a neighborhood about a mile north of the U.S. Capitol building, he was assaulted from behind by two black males who knocked him to the ground and kicked him when he was down, then ran off without trying to steal anything. Several months later, he confirmed on his blog that the attackers were black.

That evening Yglesias blogged about the attack, blaming it on a lack of population density. This wonkish concept was taken up and discussed seriously in the blogosphere for a couple of days, with only the ruder corners suggesting that the real issue here was that Yglesias appears to have been the victim of an unprovoked racial hate crime of the Polar Bear Hunting or Knockout King ilk, having been picked out solely because he was white and alone.

Since our awareness of the need for good police investigation of racially-charged violence has been raised, isn't it about time for a police report to be made public on the apparent racial hate crime committed against Yglesias?

Or, am I being naive and missing the point that blacks attacking a white for no reasons other than animus and intimidation aren't really a racial crime when viewed through the proper lens of "Who? Whom?"

March 25, 2012

James Cameron, sci-fi hero

From the NYT:
James Cameron, the filmmaker whose credits include “Avatar” and “Titanic,” plunged on Sunday in a minisubmarine of his own design to the bottom of the planet’s deepest recess, sinking through the dark waters of the western Pacific to a depth of nearly seven miles.

As I wrote in my review of Avatar for Taki's Magazine:
Ultimately, I suspect that Cameron, despite his remarkable fluency as a visual storyteller, is less interested in making movies about science fiction heroes than in being a science fiction hero himself, an inventive engineer straight out of a Heinlein novel such as The Door into Summer
As Cameron’s aspirations have swelled, he’s made himself into an offscreen, yet central, figure in his own movies, perhaps more than any filmmaker since Cecil B. DeMille. Will Cameron go broke shooting Titanic? Will he revolutionize filmmaking and movie-going in Avatar? The looming presence of James Cameron in James Cameron films has become both intrusive and inspiring. 
This makes Cameron, in a strange way, more interesting than his own movies.