March 2012 Archives

New info should embarrass national media for prejudging Trayvon Martin case

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The media narrative of the Trayvon Martin case is pretty clear. So far, it's been effective too--a new poll has three-quarters of Americans wanting Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman, to be arrested.

Zimmerman, an overly zealous neighborhood watchman, became suspicious of Martin only because he was black and white people don't want them in a gated community. He followed Martin, whose father lived in the neighborhood. Martin became scared and approached Zimmerman to ask why he was following him. Zimmerman used a poorly worded Stand Your Ground gun law as a loophole to legally shoot Martin point blank in the chest.

At least that's what the media narrative tells us, along with politicians who are eager to whip up racial hatred. However, some new information in the case may completely upend that story.

First, Zimmerman is a Spanish-speaking Hispanic Democrat. So the idea that this is a cut-and-dry example of white conservative racial profiling should have gone out the window pretty early. It didn't.

Next, police found Zimmerman with grass stains on his back, and a bloody nose and face. His lawyer says his nose was broken.

Some witness testimony has the much taller Martin throwing the first punch, knocking Zimmerman to the ground, getting on top of him, and repeatedly slamming his head into the pavement.

One witness, who has since talked to local television news reporters, told police he saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon on top, pounding him -- and was unequivocal that it was Zimmerman who was crying for help.

Zimmerman then shot Trayvon once in the chest at very close range, according to authorities.

When police arrived less than two minutes later, Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose, had a swollen lip and had bloody lacerations to the back of his head.

Zimmerman might not have been the aggressor, if any of that was true. This might not have been "a killing that seems dangerously close to an execution." Trayvon also might not be the innocent the media portrayed him as. They ran pictures of a fresh-faced young man alongside Zimmerman's scary mug and America saw that he really could have been Obama's son, as the president pointed out. The media chose not to run a picture of Trayvon with a slight sneer than the teenager had posted on his Twitter profile. One tweet suggests Trayvon may have hit a bus driver.

The Miami Herald reported that Trayvon had multiple suspensions from school and a school official once found suspicious items in his bookbag after suspecting him of graffiti.

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.

The day of the shooting, Zimmerman said Martin looked suspicious because he was looking inside windows of houses he passed.

It's starting to look like the media rushed to judgment, yet again, like they did with the white Duke -Lacrosse players who were accused of raping a black stripper.  That story also fit the media's desperation to find black people being abused at the hands of white people. The media looked silly by rushing to judgment in that case too. You might say they were prejudiced.

More facts about this shooting are yet to emerge. It may well turn out that Zimmerman murdered Trayvon. Or not. But it shouldn't be up to people like me to lecture season journalists on waiting for all facts to come out before hanging a guilty verdict on someone's head.

Freethinking is more likely encountered on the Right

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In a 2002 episode of South Park, the boys were sent to a Death Camp of Tolerance for being offended at some of their teacher's explicit acts. The Nazi-like camp counselor ironically told them that intolerance is no longer tolerated.

Welcome to Tolerance Camp. You are here because you would not accept other people's differences. You refused to accept the life choices of your fellow man. Well those days are now over. Here, intolerance... will not be tolerated!

It is with that same sense of irony that I read about the Freethinkers of Ventura County, a social club that meets monthly to listen to speakers on topics such as euthanasia.

A freethinker, the website says, is "a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition."

Now, that's something I can get behind. Perhaps the largest freethinking group, under that definition, would be Republitarians like myself, who stand almost alone against the liberal orthodoxy of most mainstream news outlets, schools and universities, the movie and music industries, as well as the biggest authority there is--the government itself.

Is it not, after all, a freethinker who can point out the contradiction between the belief that people should be treated equally regardless of skin color and the public policy of affirmative action, which does exactly the opposite of that? Or that abortion ends a human life? Or that a proper reading of the First Amendment does not grant us freedom FROM religion?

I think those positions, despite being formed from reason and independent of authority or tradition, would be disavowed by some members of the FTVC. After all, it's comprised of "atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists and rationalists." In other words, especially in regards to humanists, anti-religious progressives.

From what I can tell, the FTVC thinks freethinkers and Christians are mutually exclusive groups. According to its website:

No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.

Let's address the freethinking aspects of atheism. On one end of the spectrum is a hardcore Christian, who is absolutely certain God exists and the Bible should be taken literally. On the other end is the atheist, who is absolutely certain God does not exist and the Bible is a bunch of hooey.

Are not both positions equally absurd, given that we simply don't know and have no way of knowing? We can neither prove God exists or doesn't exist. We Christians believe in it, but belief is different that knowledge. Similarly, the atheist's conviction that God most certainly does not exist is merely an expression of faith that the FTVC should find as invalid and "no guarantee of truth."

Furthermore, a true freethinker would challenge the atheist even more and ask about the origins of the universe. Well, the universe began as a Big Bang. But, the true freethinker asks, is not an explosion an effect of some cause, and not a cause in itself?

What is a moderate, really?

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Unless they're already committed ideologically one way or another, Americans tend to think highly of political moderates. They like the words independent, bipartisan, compromise, and nonpartisan. They cringe when they hear about extremists, die-hards, polarization and hardcore ideologues.

Linda Parks fits the popular definition of moderate. She's a Democrat-turned Republican who has served Ventura County as a supervisor. Now she's a Republican-turned-independent as she runs for Congress.

Her independence was the focus of a recent Star column that asked, "In polarized politics, is there room on the equator?"

She has what on the surface appears to be a compelling message at a time when the approval rating for Congress among California voters stands at 17 percent.

Her message: Congress is broken and the war between parties has rendered it dysfunctional. "The extreme partisanship in Congress diminishes their very ability to legislate," she writes on her campaign website.

Beneath the surface it may not be a clear cut case of an independent person trying to bring common sense to Washington, an image Parks would like to portray. Surely a catalyst behind her nonpartisan registration is that neither party wanted her. I'm probably too cynical to think that if the GOP establishment was going to get 100% percent behind her that she would reject their financial and organizational assistance so she could remain independent. It's easy to go your own way when nobody else wants to go with you.  

Circumstances may have chosen independence for her, just as electoral politics may have decided her switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party so many years ago when she was a Democrat eyeing a seat in a Republican district. She wisely switched parties and became a successful location politician. But her heart didn't seem to change with her party registration.

All that's required to be a "moderate," according to the prevailing wisdom that almost everyone accepts, is that you cross party lines from time-to-time. That you "play things down the middle."

Under that definition, Parks is indeed a moderate. She was a liberal Republican who often sided with Democrats and was at odds with Ventura County's conservative Republican establishment.  But, while she's proven to be flexible as far as party registration has occurred, is she moderate in her political beliefs?

She has a strong environmental record that will appeal to Democrats and most independents in the district.

Until earlier this month, when she had to change her voter registration so that she could run as an independent, Parks was a registered Republican. She may now be able to appeal to disaffected Republicans based on such issues as her support for a woman's ability "as a last resort" to choose to have an abortion "without government interference."

That's an apt summary of her ideology. She's a pro-choice environmentalist, and she won't say if she prefers Pelosi or Boehner. That's nice, but that's hardly middle of the road on the liberal/conservative spectrum.

Here's the problem with labeling someone as a middle-of-the road moderate because they are ideologically inclined one way but registered another way.

Anyone who's read anything I've written would call me a committed conservative. Probably a hard-core conservative Republican, or a right winger. They'd say I'm anything but moderate.

But all I would have to do to become a "moderate," using the prevailing definition, would be to change my party registration to Democrat.

Then, even though I've retained every single right-wing belief I have, I'd suddenly be working across the aisle since I'd be a Democrat that finds Republican legislation palatable. In other words, in order to get praised by the public as a moderate, I just have to hide from them my true beliefs!

And so it is with Linda Parks. From what I can see, she never dropped her liberal beliefs when she left the Democratic Party to run in a Republican district. When pointing out that she also has beliefs on the right side of the aisle, we're told that well, she's pro-choice. If that's her biggest GOP credential, then she must not have had to do much soul-searching for her to drop her Republican registration.

Ironically, I'm a real moderate. While Parks is crafty enough to avoid saying whether Pelosi or Boehner is better, I'll tell you straight up that they both drive me nuts. I'll tell you that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have spent and are spending the country into oblivion.

As far as my political preference is concerned, the aforementioned big spending Obama isn't going to get my vote, even though I think he's a genius and an effective leader. He's just going in the wrong direction. And though I'm called a conservative, I'm not sold on Santorum since I don't think he has enough executive experience to make me comfortable with him running a huge bureaucracy. Nor do I think he can beat the Obama machine. Romney has proven to be an effective executive, but I think Romneycare was a disaster. I love Paul's fiscal policies but his foreign policy would be national suicide. Gingrich has the right policies and the chops to run an organization, but I have problems with his morality.

Isn't that how a real moderate thinks?

Russia isn't the only faux-democracy

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Vladimir Putin's back as Russia's president--not that he was ever far away from it. He retained power behind the scenes during his ally Dmitry Medvedev's presidency, and the plan all along was for Putin to return. The ex-KGB strongman wants to reconstitute the empire that was lost when the Soviet Union fell. Putin and Medvedev are playing Good-Cop-Bad-Cop on a geopolitical scale.  When Russia needs to be conciliatory Medvedev is the man to do it. When it needs to be strong and aggressive, enter Putin.

To win reelection, Putin resorted to rigging the election, as outlined in a Ventura County Star editorial. Every word of it is true. We tend to look down on other democracies, with good reason. They're often subterfuges for dictators. Only Sean Penn thinks Hugo Chavez was elected fairly, and I haven't yet heard anyone say Putin was fairly elected. Maybe George W. Bush.

But it struck me while reading the editorial that, while we clearly see the faults other nations have, we often overlook our own faults. Our democracy is not corrupt. Our elections aren't rigged.  Consider the following statements in the Star editorial.

The Wall Street Journal cited a poll that says 35 percent of Russians think the elections are illegitimate and 40 percent distrust the government, a figure surely on the low side.

Even if 40 percent is a low figure, it has a long way to go to match up with the 83% disapproval rating Americans give to Congress. Incompetence is not proof of corruption, but for some reason these people keep getting reelected. We already know that gerrymandering all but ensures reelection for career politicians--isn't that something we'd expect to find in a banana republic?

To ensure the outcome, the Kremlin resorted to a vote fraud so crude it would make a Chicago alderman blush -- "carousel voting."

Interesting that Chicago is held up as a model of corruption, because that's the president's political home.  In fact, he had close ties to ACORN there, which even the left-leaning said "had widespread problems with phony [voter registrations]."

If the election had been honest and confined to Moscow, where three months of nonstop protests led up to the election, Mr. Putin might have gotten less than 20 percent of the vote.

Even though conservatives are the largest ideological group--twice as numerous as liberals, we're still dominated by them. Interestingly, Gallup has the percent of the population as liberal at 21 percent, just like the pro-Putin minority. Like them, we find ourselves outnumbering the opposition but losing to them. Democratic leadership is pretty far to the left--nobody (except the media) would say that Obama or Pelosi or Reid or Schumer or Durbin or Frank are moderates. Let's be nice and call them "social Democrats" instead of outright socialists.  But when it comes to Republican leaders, we have to put up with moderates. Bush, while socially conservative, was not fiscally conservative. McCain, our 2008 presidential nominee, tried to out bailout Obama. We're going to have Romney next, and he out Obamacare'd Obama in Massachusetts. For governor here in California, we had Arnold, who practically declared war on his own party. In short, why is it that the biggest ideological group never has a candidate that represents those beliefs? Simply put, the media is corrupt and with the exception of Fox News and talk radio, conservative candidates are piled on by the media. Just look at poor Rick Santorum.

Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev will return to his previous role as prime minister. President Medvedev and Mr. Putin exchanged jobs so Mr. Putin could comply with the Russian Constitution's limit of two consecutive terms. The president's term, meanwhile, was extended from four to six years.

In America, we too get around term limits by having our close associates run in our stead. The elder Bush was the outgoing President Reagan's vice president. Then we got Bill Clinton, and several years after he got termed out Hillary ran (and Chelea is a being groomed for a political future). Between the Bill and Hillary campaigns we had the younger Bush. The only reason Hillary didn't win is because the lightning President Obama captured in a bottle. Will we next see a Michelle Obama campaign?

There is a growing backlash against officially sanctioned corruption and the numerous overweening perks of Kremlin favorites.

Do we need to even get into the perks that Washington favorites get, like legally sanctioned insider stock trading? Gold plated medical insurance? Payouts to your political supporters, like $500 million for Solyndra?

During the campaign, Mr. Putin made promises to voters that would total more than $160 billion, money the Kremlin doesn't have.

Wow, our politicians never promise to buy us anything with money we don't have. $160 billion sounds like pocket change for us.

Mr. Putin might surprise his critics. A key test will be three measures before the parliament: one restoring the direct election of governors, another eliminating at least some restrictions on political parties, and a third giving the opposition access to state-controlled broadcast media.

Opposition access to state-controlled broadcast media? Show me where conservatives have access to PBS.

Russia's corruption might be cruder and more obvious than ours, but ours still exists. We just have nicer words for it. Other countries have state run media outlets that disseminate pro-government propaganda. We call it "public broadcasting." In Russia, journalists get intimidated with violence. Here, they get intimidated by Media Matters. In other countries those that say the wrong political things get assassinated. Here, their character gets assassinated (just ask Rush Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck, or Sarah Palin, or Michelle Bachmann, or any other high-profile conservative).

Face it, our system is corrupt. Romney, despite having almost no support from non-political establishment Republicans, is the likely GOP nominee. And President Obama--let's just say that any other president wouldn't even try to run for reelection with $5/gallon gasoline and 9% unemployment.  But he'll probably do what nobody else has been able to do and win, because he'll benefit from about a billion dollars worth of free advertising from the complicit media. Our elections aren't rigged, in the strict sense of the word, but the establishment has such an advantage that it can almost always ensure that someone from the single largest ideological group never gets elected president.

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I don't often see a letter-to-the-editor in the "most viewed" section of the Star's home page, but one entitled "Conservative thinking" made its way up there over the weekend.

To summarize the letter, the writer cites the problem of high gas prices and urges voters to "wake up" and "vote for those who have conservative thinking."

The first commenter advised the writer to get out some popcorn and "sit back and enjoy the liberals bad mouthing you."

It didn't take very long for "teabaggers" and home schoolers to be ridiculed by subsequent commenters.

Conservative comments tended to defend George W. Bush's energy policies while liberals countered that the price of oil rose under his watch. An example:

Conservatives are "the thinkers"? One of the most clueless letters in years. It is "conservatives" who are refusing to regulate speculators while they sit on the Commodities Futures Board.

FACT: Highest domestic oil PRODUCTION since 2003.

FACT: Lowest US DEMAND since 1997.

FACT: There is NO doubt the speculators are to blame as they PURCHASE 81% OF ALL OIL FUTURES.

So let's get educated folks and stop all this stupid clueless garbage.

I wonder if the author of that comment stopped to consider if inflation plays a role in the price of oil. Certainly, if the dollar's value fell by half, all things being equal, oil's price in terms of dollars would double.

Inflation is a tool used by the powers-that-be as a better solution politically than raising taxes. When a government spends too much money, it faces pressure to try to generate revenue by increasing taxes, or by borrowing, or by printing more money. Politicians respond by desperately avoiding raising taxes on the voting public (unless it's  on the relatively few-in-number rich) and instead reverting to borrowing, until they borrow so much they realize other adverse consequences like having to commit a huge portion of the budget to servicing the debt or facing a credit hit.

Since they can't raise taxes and they can't borrow, they print money. When money gets printed out of thin air, the value of the dollar plummets and inflation increases, which increases the price of gas in terms of dollars.

So, we can directly link high gas prices to spending too much money, which means blame can be assigned to both the Bush and Obama administrations.

However, it cannot be assigned to conservatives, at least fiscal ones. President Bush was definitely not a fiscal conservative, and we're reaping the benefits of his and Obama's progressive spending policies.

Don't forget to occupy your mind

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While perusing information on the Occupy Movement's national "Shut Down the Corporations Day," I noticed a curious tagline on the event's website.

It reads, simply, "Think for yourself."

Now, that's interesting to me, coming from people who collectively repeat back every three words a speaker says in creepy chants. I suspect Occupiers fancy themselves as anti-establishment crusaders for democracy, who are more intellectual, more enlightened, and more independent-minded than the mindless right-wing zombies.

However, the newspapers are on the Occupy Movement's side. Network news is. Cable news is, with the exception of Fox News Channel. NPR is. Academia is. Hollywood is. Billionaire businessmen are. The United States government is, as well as several foreign countries.

When the president of the United States comes out on your side, how anti-establishment can you be? That would be like an Egyptian demonstrator in Tahrir Square demonstrating in 2011 for Hosni Mubarak and with his blessing while still calling himself a rebel.

The default ideology of United States institutions is politically correct progressivism. Anything else is "controversial". Teachers and professors are generally progressive--the outcasts will be the few right-of-center students who risk their grades to speak up. Most Hollywood actors have to hide their political ideology, unless their liberals in which case they win awards. The media cracks down on the peaceful Tea Party protests as "violent" and "angry", but refrain from labeling the Occupy Movement as such despite the thousands of arrests and frequent clashes with police. Do you think Disney/ABC/ESPN will tackle tough social issues when they are so afraid of "controversy" they knee-jerk fired a reporter for accidentally saying "chink-in-the-armor" in a story about Jeremy Lin?

A person on the right who questions the scientific consensus of man-made global warming stands alone. A person who asks, "our laws should be colorblind and so we shouldn't have ones that give preference to certain races" is himself called a racist. Someone who says our debt-problem is so out of control we need to cut spending on social programs goes against the federal government, the media, and various special interest groups.

Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians are the real free-thinkers. It doesn't take much thought to parrot what you see in movies, TV shows, or what you heard from your liberal professors or on NPR, or what you read in the NY Times or LA Times or Time or Newsweek, or what you saw on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC,  or the Daily Show. Or what the government tells you.

It takes real intellectual courage to challenge what everyone else has accepted as fact.

This blog attempts to add perspective and context to local and national politics, through a variety of disciplines, such as history, economics, and philosophy--all tempered with common sense. About the author

Eric Ingemunson's commentary has been featured on Hannity, CNN, NBC, Inside Edition, and KFI's The John and Ken Show. Eric was born and raised in Ventura County and currently resides in Moorpark. He earned a master's degree in Public Policy and Administration from California Lutheran University. As a conservative, Eric supports smaller government, less taxation, more individual freedom, the rule of law, and a strict adherence to the Constitution.
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