Tommy CarcettiTommy Carcetti's Journal
Why Did Florida Fire Allen West?
By Michael C. Bender on November 29, 2012
Allen West is still surprised that Floridas voters have kicked him out of Congress after only two years. Why would anyone want to get rid of a person that is born and raised in the inner city, third of four generations in the militaryjust an American success story? asks West, from the living room of his Palm Beach Gardens home overlooking a pool and golf course. Im not some guy that came from a rich political family or anything like that, he says. Im just an everyday guy, but I have a passion for my country.
You call 80 of your colleagues Communists, you tell key Democrats to "get the hell out of America", you go off on an email rant against a colleague by calling her "vile, despicable and not a lady," you say that Obama voters are "a threat to the gene pool", you say that the sole Muslim member of Congress whom you've never even met "represents the antithesis of the principles upon which this nation was founded," you claim that people with "Coexist" bumper stickers want to give the country away, and you failed to offer a single meaningful piece of legislation in your two years of office.
I'm so glad my state removed this cancer to its legislative delegation. You have no idea.
Does. Not. Play. Well. With. Others.
So I'm on Facebook and I see a conservative friend of mine "like" a graphic from a group called "Conservative Women Rock!" (who apparently must be those women in binders that Mitt had been talking about.) Curious, I chose to check it out.
I'll spare you having to go to their idiotic site yourselves, but the graphic had a picture of President Obama during the debate and has a quote of his, "Gas prices were $1.86 when I took office because the economy was on the verge of collapse." At the bottom of the graphic, they add their own cutesy editorial comment, "Oh. Thanks. $4.00 is so much less collapse-y."
Essentially, they want to spin this as some sort of huge gaffe by the President and claim he is a complete out of touch moron for saying this. The problem is.....well, where do you start? First--and as much as I hate to say this, but this even applies to George W. Bush when he was president--the president cannot directly set the price of gas or oil, nor can he easily influence the price of gas or oil without enacting measures that conservatives would no doubt claim is horrible government intrusion on the precious oil companies. The price of oil and gas are controlled mainly by the oil companies themselves as well as market speculators who influence the trading price of oil based on what they see as global market conditions. That we are completely beholden to the oil companies and market speculators when it comes to the price of gas is disgusting, but that's how the game currently works.
So what's so special about January 2009 when President Obama took office? Well, for everyone alive and mentally cognizant at the time, and not living under some sort of rock, they would know that we were in the middle of a horrific economic collapse. The stock market was in a free-fall, and we were hemoraging jobs by the million every month. This collapse started in earnest in October 2008 and wouldn't bottom out until the end of the first few months of the Obama administration. In the Summer of 2008, gas was at an all time high of $4.10 a gallon. That all changed when the levies broke. Stocks were a mess. Because of massive unemployment, people were driving less to jobs, not taking long road trips. Oil market speculators saw this, and like the rest of Wall Street, they panicked. Hence, the price of oil plummetted on these fears. It certainly had nothing to do with the health of the economy.
Flash forward four years later, and the unemployment numbers are back to where they were when the President took office. Those numbers have slowly but steadily risen over almost the entirity of the Obama administration. The stock market is back to pre-recession levels. We are in recovery. Market speculators see this, and doing the dirty work that they do, they feel comfortable raising the trading price of oil. So what President Obama was entirely, 100% correct.
Not that I necessarily think that President Obama couldn't do things better in this respect. He could attempt to take measures that restricts or even eliminates market speculation on the price of oil. But you just know if he tries to do that, the conservatives will turn around and cry bloody murder that he is trying to nationalize the oil companies and you'll hear endless b.s. talk about socialism and communism and every other type of -ism. Because the sad fact of the matter is, when faced on one side with supporting oil market speculators and oil industry tycoons on one side, and a Democratic president on the other side, conservatives will by instinct choose the market speculators and tycoons who willfully stick it up the rear of the lower and middle classes when it comes to gas price rather than supporting a president trying to offer relief from the price at the pump. Simply because the guy is a Democrat.
But those in the right are living in the now. Blinded by crass partisianship, they cannot for the life of them see the forest through the trees. To them, the economy on January 19, 2009 was vibrant and robust, all ruined the moment President Obama raised his hand to take the oath of office. To them, the economy now is worse than it was in January 2008. To them, gas prices during the Bush administration were always rock bottom.
What took me back the most was the complete ignorance in some of the comments. I pointed out that gas had been over $4 well into the summer of 2008. One person shot back that gas was never over $4 during Bush's presidency. So I responded with an article from June 2008 by Consumer Reports that showed in clear black print that the average price of a gallon of regular gas was $4.10. Didn't hear anything back from that poster. Other posters, however, claimed that those prices were the fault of the Democratic-lead congress. So to believe that logic, we have to say that gas prices from January 2007-October 2008 were high because of actions of congressional Democrats, and then the sub $2 prices from October 2008-January 2009 were the result of economic brilliance of the Bush administration (despite the fact that the economy was simultaneously in a free-fall collapse), but that once President Obama took office, the slow increase in gas prices was once again the fault of the Democrats.
Another person said--apparently without a hint of sarcasm--that oil companies and oil speculators don't control the price of oil and gas at all. Instead, it was the gas station owners in her mind who controlled the price of gas. Her big "proof" was that one gas station down the street from her was selling at $3.60 a gallon, whereas another gas station was selling at $3.70 a gallon. I responded by asking her if gas stations could control the price of gas, why she didn't see a gas station in her town sell it at $1.50? Surely, that gas station would have lines a mile down the street. But no such gas station exists, because they don't get to control the price like that. Again, I never heard anything back from her.
After reading these comments, I was truly at a loss for words. The rhetoric reminded me of the scene from the movie "Idiocracy" where the main character--a man frozen in time for centuries only to awaken to a society where humankind had grown exponentially more stupid--tried to explain to the President's cabinet that watering plants with a flavored sports drink was killing them. In response, they kept on shouting out the various commercial slogans of the sports drink without any actual thought or logic to what they were saying. One of them claims that the only thing they used water for was for flushing toilets, and "I ain't seen no plants grow out of no toilet."
But apparently in their own world, the economy is worse than it was in January 2009. In their own world, the President can control the price of gas with a waive of a magic wand and without any negative political reprecussions. In their own world, gas was always super low during the Bush years. In their own world, the price of gas always acts as a perfect barometer of the greater economic situation, and that lower gas prices always means that the economy is healthy. In their own world, nothing that President Obama does can ever be correct, or logical, or the right thing.
If it wasn't just so heartbreakingly sad, it would be funny. If only....
It was technically a Catholic high school, although not overtly religious (no nuns or priests teaching) and a lot of the students there were not actually Catholic but instead simply fuck-ups whose parents sent them there in the hopes it would straighten them out. But my sister had gone there and apparently had a decent experience. And the Catholic labeling for me mislead me--I had a good experience in my CCD classes (Catholic religious education) with my classmates at my home parish, most of whom were all very friendly, sociable and outgoing. So I thought it might offer more to me than the local public high school, tuition was not too outrageous for my parents, so I convinced them to enroll me there.
Bottom line, the place was a hellhole for bullying and cliquish behavior. Most everyone was in various small cliques, all of whom talked horribly about each other behind their backs but smiled to their faces. I decided I didn't want to play along so I disassociated myself from those cliques. The only people I found tolerable were those who seemed to feel likewise; sadly, those were far and few between.
Unfortunately, this was the mid 1990s, right after "Dazed and Confused" had come out. And that movie must have put something into the screwed up heads of the student population, because the non-freshman made it a point to make all the freshmen feel as miserable as possible. (Ironically, from speaking with my friends at the public high school, this was never an issue there. Never). There were stories that the upper classmen would stuff freshmen into trash cans or do other humilating things. I don't know if they were just stories--thankfully that never personally happened to me, but the intimidation factor was there.
And then there was this one student, a sophomore ("young fool", ironic, huh?) named Randy.
To this day, I still cannot figure Randy out. He appeared to be popular and well liked, was a member of the school's basketball team, and always had a cadre of about a half dozen friends walking around him on campus. As God is my witness, I never did anything to upset or anger Randy. I don't think I even spoke to him before. Yet Randy felt the need to single me out, a guy who never did anything wrong to him.
It wasn't anything physical. He never stuffed me in the trash can, tripped me, hit me, none of that. But he did go out of his way to cruelly isolate me. It was a large, spread out campus with various buildings that you had to walk in between. And whenever I would be walking in between classes, he and his gang would be walking the other way and Randy would start calling out my name, making cat-calls and other oddly provocative gestures just to get a rise out of his friends. I'm not exactly sure why. I wasn't gay, nor did I appear gay to others or do anything that might suggest that I was gay. I was, however, shy, quiet and reserved, placid, and because I didn't want to play the clique game I didn't have any close friends at the school. I think Randy just thought of me as an easy punching bag--a victim he could cruelly get a laugh at my expense in front of his friends. I honestly think he was a psychopath, but a charming one at that.
Another possible explanation was that sometimes I would have conversations with some of the cute upper class girls at the school, and maybe he saw me as some sort of threat--the quiet, shy kid gets the girl's attention, and needs to be knocked down a few notches. But that's just speculation on my part.
The worst thing was that even among people at the school who were friendly to me saw this but really didn't see it as a big deal. Some even admitted to me that they thought it was funny, and said, "Oh that's just Randy--he has a huge ego!"
So what did I do? The answer is nothing. I've always considered myself a pacifist, and I had no major desire to get into any fights. Occassionally, I had a few fantasies about fighting back but it didn't go beyond that. It did affect my outward happiness, and I once had a guidance counselor approach me and tell me she heard a rumor I was suicidal. (For the record, nothing of that sort remotely was the case.) However, I didn't want to report Randy's behavior to the school's administrators either, as much as I wanted to. I feared that doing so would make me appear weak, and that if I did that, the bullying would become physical.
Instead, I just kept on thinking, "He'll get his. One day, he'll get his." I believed in karma-type retribution, and that some day Randy would get some sort of payback for his bullying of me (and potentially others).
After my freshman year, Randy's family moved to Arkansas. At that point, I wanted to go back to public school, but part of me felt that such a hasty retreat would mean that Randy won. So I stuck it out through sophomore year--which wasn't as bad thanks to the lack of Randy, but still the whole private school experience was ruined on me. I felt isolated and lonely, and after sophomore year I decided to go back to public school. And it was the greatest decision of my life--the environment there was a total 180, I excelled in academics, connected with old friends, made new friends, went to prom, had the most influential teacher I've ever had, the whole nine yards.
But for years afterwards, I have to admit I was still angry at Randy for his cruel behavior. And I had no interest in forgiving him for his transgressions against me.
Then one day, I was engaging in my occasional passion of looking up on Facebook various people from long ago (yes, Facebook stalking if you want to call it that), and I started to wonder "What did happen to Randy?" So, after a few searches, I finally came across Randy's facebook profile.
Randy had gotten married, had three sons, was still living in Alabama....nothing too out of the ordinary, until I saw continued references to one of his sons on his and his wife's page. Curious, I looked further as to why he was so fixated on talking about that one son. And then I found out: his three year old son (the same age as my daughter) had tragically died in a drowning accident. Randy's Facebook profile picture was him and his now deceased son, as happy father and son.
Now, the cynical part of me would want to say that this was the ultimate payback--that karma or divine retribution had taken place and taken the one most cherished thing out of Randy's life as payback for how he acted towards me and possibly many others years ago.
But I quickly rejected that proposition. Bad karma or divine retribution would be me reading something like Randy had been caught embezlling from his job and being sent to prison, or something along those lines. But this was a man's son who was taken from him, at such a young age. The loss of a child is quite possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone in their lifetime. If God forbid that were to happen with me, I don't even know how I could get out of bed in the morning. It must be a truly hellish situation for anyone who has been through it. I then felt a very deep and very real sense of empathy and sadness for the person who bullied me endlessly my first year of high school.
Needless to say, after reading that, I didn't have much of a desire to see any more wrong come to Randy. As much as I felt how he had made one year of my life felt like a living hell, I realize that my feelings about that situation still couldn't compare to the true living hell of his life knowing he has lost a child.
So Randy, wherever you may be, I have to wish you peace, solace, all the love and enjoyment in the world with your other children, and all the best to you in the remaining years of your life.
(My response to this story in LBN:
I thought I would cross post this here as well.)
I don't see Zimmerman as the Grand Dragon of the KKK. He may very well indeed have been the person to have a "safe" black friend or acquanitance or two at some point in his life. Having listened to the 911 tapes, I'm not 100% convinced he said "coons" as opposed to "punks", but it is quite possible he used "punks." I haven't heard anything yet that supports the proposition that he was an open and unabashed hater of blacks to the point he freely expressed his unbridled vitriol towards them.
That all said, there is still most definitely a racial component in all this. Because while I haven't yet seen anything to support the notion that Zimmerman was an out and out racist, I have seen plenty to support the idea that Zimmerman had a twisted vigalante and trigger happy persona about him with a self-imposed sense of legal duty to him: he was going to be the law, regardless of the fact that he lacked a badge and any reasonable sense of self-restraint. And in that twisted mind of his, he probably thought that because--quite sadly--a large percentage of the prison populations are young African American males, that in his mind meant that any young African American male was a potentially a threat and up to no good (regardless of any actual evidence to suggest such an assessment). And in his deficient personality, his desire to be Charles Bronson combined with a CCW card that he thought gave him unlimited power culminated in a deadly result of an innocent kid being killed (and arguably murdered.)
So in other words, it was the classic profiling situation, which is soft-bigotry at its finest. And while I try to avoid hard bigots like the plague and thankfully find them far and few between, I've found that I've come across plenty of people who have fallen into the trap of soft bigotry. They don't necessarily hate blacks or Muslims or (name whatever group), but for whatever reason they don't want to trust the true fact that most people regardless of race are genuinely good people, and they don't fully trust members of that race. It's sad, but it's all too common place.
Take New York City and the proposed Islamic Center in lower Manhattan. You had a few people--like that whackjob Pam Geller--who weren't afraid to show us their ugly side and expose themselves as hard bigots who clearly hate all Muslims. But you had a lot more people who didn't necessarily express that hatred, but thought that the mere fact that building an mosque or Islamic Center close to the Ground Zero cite would somehow be "insensitive" or "inappropriate" to the victims of September 11th. Nevermind that a) there were many victims in the September 11th attacks who were Muslim, b) there was no evidence whatsoever that the Muslims seeking to build this Islamic Center had even the slightest ties to September 11th or Al Queada or to organized terrorism, or c) in the United States of America, you have the freedom to worship whatever you want, wherever you want, period.
But that is soft bigotry at play for you, and that is perhaps a greater threat to this country than hard bigotry. Because not only does it infect more people, but it is harder for people to reject and condemn because it is more subtle and commonplace. And its a trap that we see our neighbors or even members of our own family fall into, despite them being otherwise decent people.
I think one of the mistakes regarding the Trayvon Martin case was to immediately to compare it to the murder of Emmitt Till. Yes, there were some glaring factual simularities between the two cases. But the Till murder was a true lynching of the first magnitude, hard bigotry on display at its worst. It was a much more horribly simple case of hatred. The Trayvon Martin case is a much more complicated case indicative of 21st Century complexities. It was the nexis of the soft bigotry of racial profiling and a trigger happy, gun loving society.
So Bill Cosby was definitely on the ball by identifying a major issue of this case as being a matter of a gun-worshipping, trigger happy society. And he was also right that simply labling this case as a mere matter of hard bigotry doesn't necessarily do us any favors in contemplating it. But there is also most definitely a racial component to this case that cannot be ignored, that being the matter of soft bigotry. And while soft bigotry alone might not be a major danger to society, when you combine it with said trigger-happy, gun worshiping vigalante attitude expressed by many, the results can be--as Trayvon Martin tragically learned--very deadly.
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