Thursday, August 29, 2013

As Cordell Jude trial is delayed, media weighs in with its own well established hypocrisy

Cordell Lamar Jude’s trial for the murder of Daniel Adkins, which was set for August 14, has been postponed until September 16. I found this out after I had contacted Jerry Cobb, the public information officer of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office concerning where I could find information about the progress of the trial. According to case documents on the Superior Court website, there was discussion concerning the state’s intention of bringing Jude’s extensive criminal history into the trial, but on August 19, there was a “request for travel expedited ruling requested.”

I “requested” a clarification from Mr. Cobb, and he informed me that “Counsel for the defendant filed a motion to delay a pre-trial evidentiary hearing and the trial date due to the defendant’s mother passing away.  The State did not object.  The Court granted the motion.”  Jude’s father lives in Arizona (we know this because he threatened to shoot a USA Today reporter if he or his son were bothered again), but if his mother still resided in his hometown of Detroit, this means he is headed out of the state, probably without “escort” services. We can recognize his loss, yet we must be cognizant of his attitude about the life of others. Jude has not been free on a million dollar bail—unlike say, George Zimmerman; he has since he was first charged with second degree murder out on his own “recognizance” despite reportedly testing positive for drug use and continuing to ”hang out” with known “gangstas” who like to shoot people. If the trial does occur as rescheduled, it will be almost 18 months since the shooting of Adkins occurred. 

As noted before, the “mainstream” media (and local media) has been not only extremely reticent about this case, it has allowed it to be almost exclusively driven by the blogosphere. The Arizona Republic has ignored the case, and the  Phoenix New-Times—a left-wing “alternative” weekly, has gone out of its way to downplay the significance of the case in relation to how the media has reacted to the Zimmerman case. “Race” isn’t an “issue”—but that is because the media and outside agitators of the Al Sharpton stripe haven’t made it one; certainly toothless “Hispanic” advocates have not sought to rough-up the political seas.

Ignored, of course, is that it was not prosecutors in the Zimmerman case that brought race into the equation; it was the media and those with agendas who did. On the other hand, the same media has been quite content to allow the Jude case to be handled as the powers-that-be see fit. While the media gleefully gave “voice” to black grievances against the Latino community for its own cynical, self-serving purposes, there was no comprehension of how the reporting only heightened common-held stereotypes and prejudices against Latinos. As Shelby Steele pointed out, Zimmerman is hardly KKK material, and no thought was given to whether because Zimmerman was clearly Latino in Trayvon Martin’s eyes (as Adkins was in Jude’s) that this fact “colored” the latter's attitude in how he could “handle” the situation.  
Along with the New-Times, The Daily Beast has also chimed in with its opinion concerning suggestions the Adkins murder is the “reverse” of the Martin case. According to the Beast, “The thought is that national media outlets are ignoring the Phoenix case because the shooter, Cordell Jude, is black -- and that doesn't fit some sort of media plot. In reality, there's hardly anything the two cases have in common…That gives way too much credit to Jude. No bloody photographs of Jude after the confrontation are going to pop up, and we don't remember George Zimmerman claiming he was being attacked with a deadly weapon that never actually existed (Note: There was Martin's fists, and that concrete the media chooses to overlook). There was no conversation with police dispatchers before the shooting. Jude wasn't following Adkins around. The cases are hardly anything alike, except for the fact that an unarmed person was shot and killed. The theory that this is a "reverse Trayvon Martin case" is pathetic, really.”

Like others in the “mainstream” media, the Beast has been demonizing and dehumanizing Zimmerman while portraying Martin as a “innocent child” from the start; naturally the writer of this article seems blinded to the fact that the not only do the details not match up, they suggest an entirely different set of moral questions. I detect that the author of the piece is so desperate to separate the two that he doesn’t realize that he has just described a case that is more obviously cold-blooded murder than the Zimmerman case. Who is really the “pathetic” one here?

And then there is CNN’s Tom Foreman, who wrote a bizarre commentary that started off with like this:

To start with, Cordell Jude was hungry. He was 22, the spring days were growing longer and the temperature in Phoenix had climbed to 80 degrees that Tuesday in April 2012. It was not much cooler as the sun slipped behind the Sierra Estrella mountains, so shortly before 8 pm, Jude drove with his pregnant fianceé toward a suburban intersection crowded with fast-food restaurants, a Home Depot, a Starbucks, drug stores and gas stations.

Note that outside of one Reuters story, the mainstream media never tried to “humanize” Zimmerman—the neighborhood watch captain in a community rocked by home invasions and robberies by “transient” arrivals—like this, despite Jude’s history of criminal activity. Interestingly, Foreman inadvertently brought “context” into the discussion by comparing the cases with that of a 76-year-old Milwaukee man who is white, recently convicted of shooting to death a 13-year-old boy who was black he had accused of robbing his home; video surveillance tapes seemed to show that the boy had not put up any resistance, after he had been placing garbage cans at the curb.

On the other hand there was clear evidence that Zimmerman was physically attacked by Martin; this is not often the case in instances where people who are more obviously Caucasian shoot a minority due to assumptions based on race rather than anything that was actually done to them. Yet Zimmerman—who by all the evidence that media ignored was not prejudiced against anything save crime in his neighborhood—was demonized out of all recognizably human qualities.

Thus Foreman couldn’t help but to bring hypocrisy into the proceedings: “The key questions being asked by many: If Zimmerman was acquitted because he felt threatened, shouldn't Jude also walk? And if he doesn't, will his race and that of the victim have played a role?”  Incredible; Foreman either seems to think that Latinos are a “privileged” group in this country, or this is an example of how the media is completely blind to its own prejudices in regard to the Latino community. 

As noted before, there is little relation to these two cases; I once viewed the Adkins case as the “reverse,” but I see now that such a viewpoint has allowed the media to make twisted interpretations and cause propaganda confusion. Jude had far less excuse to do what he did than Zimmerman did. Jude was never in “danger”—he simply acted on his “gangsta” impulses—and his actions can only be explained as seeing Adkins as an “expendable” person no one would care about, particularly given the virulent anti-Latino immigrant propaganda in Arizona.

But that doesn’t explain the lack of righteous (or self-righteous) anger from white Americans (as opposed to so-called “white Hispanics”) when someone who is clearly Caucasian kills a black youth out of racial animus, as in the Milwaukee incident. Although many blacks have trouble recognizing the negative effect of “gangsta” culture on its community, whites on the other hand tell themselves “Everyone I know isn’t like that. It’s just one crazy”—which sums-up the attitude of most whites to the not infrequent massacres conducted by one of their own; they also maintain their lingering stereotypes that helps them quietly rationalize the actions of others of their “own kind.” Yet someone like Zimmerman, being Latino, easily fits into the stereotypes that whites (and many blacks) have of all Latinos. 

While I’m on the subject of the lack of a Latino perspective in the media, it might be useful to discuss what the media is saying about Latinos, the Zimmerman example notwithstanding. Of course we know that the news media presents a largely negative picture, but in the entertainment media there isn’t much improvement. Perhaps it is not as bad as Spanish language programming seen on Univision, where soap operas show Mexican society as more clearly defined in racial and class terms; almost all of the characters are of European stock, and the rare mestizo is either a maid, a gardener, a social troublemaker, or a criminal.

But not much better. A 2012 survey conducted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition found that overall, the American media as done an excessively poor job of representing the Latino community, and this failure explains the following:

First-hand knowledge of Latinos is positively related to evaluations. Those with more direct interaction with—or knowledge of—Hispanics hold more positive views of the group and its members. Those holding very negative views are often those with little direct exposure to Hispanic Americans.

“Latino” or “Hispanic” on the one hand, and the issue of illegal immigration on the other, are highly associated.  On average, these non-Hispanic respondents believed that more than half of all Hispanics estimated that 35.6% of all Hispanics are “illegal.” Over 17% of respondents believed more than half of all Hispanics are illegal, while another 13.3% estimate exactly half are undocumented. Taken together, over 30% of respondents believed a majority of Hispanics (50% or greater) were undocumented. Taken together, over 30% of all respondents believed a majority of Hispanics (50% or greater) were undocumented.
People exposed to negative entertainment or news narratives about Latinos and/or immigrants hold the most unfavorable and hostile views about both groups. Negative portrayals of Latinos and immigrants are pervasive in news and entertainment media. Consequently, non-Latinos commonly believe many negative stereotypes about these groups are true. 

Yet curiously, we find that non-Latinos widely subscribe to positive stereotypes associated with Latinos. Figure 1 illustrates this trend, where over 75% of respondents think of Latinos as family oriented (90%), hard working (81%), religious (81%), and honest (76%). 

The irony, of course, is that the black community regards such sentiments as reflecting negatively on themselves, used to “rationalize” what they see as discrimination against them, such as in job hiring. However,

the same time, one-third to half of these very same respondents also attribute several negative stereotypes to Latinos. One out of two non-Latinos think the terms "welfare recipient" and less educated” describe Latinos somewhat or very well. Sizeable shares also believe Latinos can be characterized as having too many children, refusing to learn English and taking jobs from Americans. The most commonly held Latino stereotypes run parallel to those reflected in the media. Participants were asked to recall the kinds of roles they see Latinos play in television and film. 

The top three roles non-Latinos see Latinos play are criminal or gang member, gardener or landscaper, and maid or housekeeper. 71% see Latinos in criminal or gang member roles very often or sometimes. 64% frequently see Latinos as gardeners. 5% or less never see Latino actors play criminals, gardeners or housekeepers. 47% hardly ever see Latino attorneys or judges on TV or film.  Only 5% see Latinos in roles as doctors, nurses, lawyers or judges.

The report noted—not surprisingly—that much of the acceptance of stereotypes and prejudices can be explained by a failure to actually get to know someone of Latino heritage, instead simply making a judgment on appearance and the expectation of what that “implies.”

 For the most part, non-Latinos report they have regular interaction Latinos (44% on a daily basis), and being familiar with Latino culture (74% say they are somewhat or very familiar). Yet, only 30% say they personally know many Latinos, (27% know two or fewer) and more than a third (38%) interact with Latinos once a month or less. Because personal familiarity is so varied, the impact of media framing looms larger; without direct experiences, media takes on a larger role in establishing opinions and attitudes. Perhaps not surprisingly, age is correlated to familiarity with Latinos. The gap between the youngest age cohort and all others is evident.

Whether a person identifies themselves as “liberal” or “conservative” seems to matter little in the overall picture, and there is very little differentiation in attitudes between demographics:

38-40% agree Latinos have too many kids. 36-44% agree Latinos take jobs from Americans. 42-48% agree Latinos refuse to learn English (a stereotype strangely not applied to Asians). Nearly half (49%) think Latinos are welfare recipients.

MSNBC is regarded as a “liberal” news network. Yet the survey found that 55 percent of non-Latino respondents who are influenced by it had negative views of Latinos, while only 19 percent had a “positive” view of them. It is easy to see why, which the George Zimmerman case was only the most obvious example. It noted that viewers of Bill O’Reilly’s show believe 56 percent of Latinos are on welfare, 43 percent of Rachel Maddow’s audience believe this is the case.

All of this suggests a high degree of “confusion” in exactly how to “interpret” Latinos. They are either “stealing jobs” or they are on “welfare.” There are at least 40 million Latinos in this country who are U.S. citizens or are legal immigrants, yet few “real” Americans see them as such. They are simply an “alien race” that doesn’t belong. Thus it is no surprise that both white and black America found it so easy to demonize the Latino Zimmerman—and find the Latino Adkins, a developmentally-disabled man out walking his dog, less sympathetic than a young thug-in-the-making.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

40 years later, "Battle of the Sexes" more myth than reality

Forty years ago, while the country was embroiled in the Watergate scandal, another “scandal” was in the works, courtesy of an aging former professional tennis player named Bobby Riggs. The ire of feminists everywhere was raised when Riggs went out of his way to prove that “If I am to be a chauvinist pig, I want to be the number one pig.” Riggs’ attempt to put women “in their place” was in such deliberate poor taste that it was obviously a show. Of course, feminists were not exactly above making outrageously misandrist statements themselves—and that wasn’t for “show” no matter how ludicrous the claims. 

Riggs had a successful tennis career in the 1930s and 40s, but when he first challenged the top female tennis players to exhibition matches, waiving $5,000 checks as inducements, it was perhaps not so much his sexist pronouncements that offended, but the implication that the women’s game was of such inferior caliber that a pudgy, short 55 years old man was superior even to best women’s player. Not that the best female players were eager to take him on; who wanted to be blamed for proving his theory correct? 

But Margaret Court, the acknowledged greatest female tennis player in game, decided to take him on. Riggs trained hard for the match, and told his son Larry that he was confident that he was going to “destroy” Court. And for the most part he did, beating her 6-2, 6-1. The thrashing didn’t sit well with Billie Jean King, who was next in line to Court’s tennis crown. King was an ardent feminist, and she was determined to remove the taint of female “inferiority.” 

Following the Riggs/King “Battle of the Sexes” match witnessed by a record tennis crowd of 30,000-plus and millions more around the world, the New York Times opined that 

“Mrs. Billie Jean King struck a proud blow for herself and women around the world with a crushing 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 rout of Bobby Riggs tonight in their $100,000 winner- take-all tennis match at the Astrodome…In an atmosphere more suited for a circus than a sports event, the 29-year-old Mrs. King ended the bizarre saga of the 55-year-old hustler, who had bolted to national prominence with his blunt putdowns of women's tennis and the role of today's female…Mrs. King squashed Riggs with tools synonymous with men's tennis, the serve and volley. She beat Bobby to the ball, dominated the net and ran him around the baseline to the point of near exhaustion in the third set, when he suffered hand cramps and trailed, 2-4…Most important, perhaps for women everywhere, she convinced skeptics that a female athlete can survive pressure-filled situations and that men are as susceptible to nerves as women.”

Or at least that was one opinion on the matter, which of course had to be “politically correct.” Others noted that Riggs was no great physical specimen; even against male competition in his prime he made-up for these disadvantages with play described as that of a “master tactician and strategist.” But he showed none of those qualities against King as he did against Court; it didn’t go unnoticed that Riggs looked purposefully lethargic (as if he was on “sleeping pills” according to one observer) from the start, and continually lobbed softballs either at King or into the net. Most of these “mistakes” seemed to occur just when the match threatened to become too “competitive.” King frequently hit short shots of which most professional male players in their prime would have hit comebacks leaving her sprawled helplessly on the ground. 

Yet King still proclaims that her defeat of a man who played like he was 75 was a “proud” achievement for all women. But only the most political types could have  thought this was a “significant” victory. I recall my own thoughts at the time as considering the match to be a bit of a joke, especially after seeing a picture of Riggs wearing an oversized baby dress and bonnet. I wasn’t a tennis fan and had no opinion on the quality of women’s play, and apparently unlike more “astute” observers I didn’t believe that some old guy should beat supposedly the best female players. All I saw was this buffoonish loudmouth deliberately making a fool of himself by intentionally getting under the skin of notoriously thin-skinned feminists. It was all a performance, and if the intention was to generate publicity and interest in an event that most people would otherwise have no interest in, then it did, unfortunately, work. 

But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this “Battle of the Sexes” match proved absolutely nothing, save that the top female tennis player at the time could beat a man twice her age who was obviously out-of-shape (he reportedly spent more time on the party circuit than in the training room) and played just well enough not be accused of “throwing” the match. Another so-called “battle of sexes” tennis match, between Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova in 1993, on the surface appeared to be a more legitimate test. It wasn’t; Connors was allowed only one serve per point, while his opponent was allowed the regulation two serves, as well as hitting her serves into the doubles alley. Despite these tennis “handicaps,” Connors managed to recover from a slow start to win going away. 

Today, “battle of sexes” tennis matches are nothing more than comedy routines; even the Williams Sisters were non-competitive against a 200th-ranked male nobody in 1998. When she is healthy, Serena’s serves may leave her female opponents flatfooted, but even now she “jokingly” doubts that she could win a point playing against one of the better male players. I am also reminded of a "children's event" some years ago staged at the U.S. Open, where Andy Roddick was forced to play straight man with a "comedian" in a doubles match with Martina Hingis and Ana Ivanovic. Of course the "girls" were supposed to win all the points, but Roddick seemed to lose interest in his "role" after awhile.Without warning he rocketed a return volley right between Hingis and Ivanovic that left both of them flat on the ground and giving Roddick the evil eye for showing them up. It was the only genuinely amusing moment during the painful-to-watch proceedings.

So what went “wrong” in 1973? Connors states in his recently published autobiography that he laid down a bet for $1 million on himself, wagering that he would lose less than nine games in two sets in beating Navratilova (he won his bet). He also mentioned that he noticed Riggs in the crowd--looking as if he was about to have a heart attack until Connors covered the betting line. Now comes news that Riggs may have deliberately thrown his match against King in order to pay off a large loan to his Mafia connections. According to ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” after the loss to King Riggs told his son Larry that "This was the worst thing in the world I've ever done.” But what exactly did he mean—being made a fool of in front of millions of people, or what he had done to make the result inevitable?

Nine months before the match, Hal Shaw—an assistant golf pro at the Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club in Tampa, Florida—claims to have overheard a strange meeting between mob lawyer Frank Ragano, bosses Santo Trafficante Jr. and Carlos Marcello, and an unidentified fourth man. Riggs was well known as an unrepentant gambling man and hustler; he once boasted that “If I can't play for big money, I play for a little money. And if I can't play for a little money, I stay in bed that day.” Getting into debt was also part of the “game,” and he allegedly owed the mob $100,000. Being short of cash at the time, he concocted a plan which Ragano was pitching to Trafficante and Marcello. Riggs would orchestrate and promote an “event” between himself and the top female tennis players; he expected to beat Court easily, with public opinion assuming the same when he faced King. The mobsters would lay bets on King to win, and Riggs would take a dive, although taking care not to appear to be engaging in a fraud. 

There is no way to independently verify this story, but it certainly has the benefit of a certain level of plausibility, given Riggs’ sharply contrasting performances against Court and King. King, of course, scoffs at the suggestion that Riggs “threw” their match, blaming it on sexism and men who refuse to believe a woman could beat a man in a fair match. The problem, of course, is that the “Battle of Sexes” wasn’t really a match between equals.  If King had played someone who was equal in age and technical ability, the male player’s greater power and speed would have overwhelmed her. The only way a female tennis player could beat a male player of similar position is if the male player was significantly inferior in some way (like a broken leg) that could be successfully exploited.                                                                                                                    
Reality is sometimes hard to take. In this case, fantasy trumped reality, and outside a few bruised egos and many more that were inflated, nothing was really learned from all of this. Regardless if Riggs took a dive or not, the infamous “Battle of the Sexes” was never a true test between equals, only a publicity stunt that merely served a political purpose.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Homeless couple "wins" law enforcement "lottery"

Life as a homeless person is a breeze, free of responsibility and care—or so is the opinion of certain segments of the population. But as Bob Dylan opined in “Like a Rolling Stone,” true freedom is “nothing left to lose”—or truer still, death, as the protagonists in the 1969 film Easy Rider would discover too late. If you live in certain communities, like Kent, Washington, you are liable to be a moving target for police and thugs if you are homeless.  Sometimes you can be taking your life into your hands by just sleeping in the “wrong” place—which is defined as “anyplace.” 

If you are “lucky,” you can survive an encounter with police and become a millionaire overnight. That is what happened to Angel and Jennifer Mendez last week, when in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald awarded them $4.1 million after finding that Los Angeles sheriff deputies violated their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, and failure to obtain a warrant before such occurred. The Mendezs were living in a tiny ramshackle shed on the property of a friend when two deputies—Christopher Conley and Jennifer Pederson—broke into the shed unannounced and fired off 15 shots. 14 bullets hit Angel—not enough to kill him, but enough to require a partial amputation of his right leg—and the deputies would have fired off more had they not happened to notice his pregnant fiancé, who was hit by the other bullet. The deputies had a tough choice to make: Kill both the “suspect” and the witness, or stop firing before they had to explain why they shot a pregnant woman who was doing nothing but trying to get some sleep.

They would also, of course, have to explain why they went gun-psycho against an innocent man whose only “crime,” apparently, was being homeless. Not surprisingly, the deputies did have a “story” in hand, which an internal “investigation” found “justified” their actions. The claim was that they were seeking an escaped parolee, apparently a drug dealer that they “suspected” was the owner of the property the Mendezs were “living” on. The deputies claimed that the only people they believed might be found in the shack would be anyone trying to evade police detection. When they broke into the shed, the deputies claimed that Mendez pointed a gun at them. The “weapon” was a BB gun which Mendez said was used to shoot at the rats that frequented the shed, and that it was lying next to him when the deputies busted in, and he had merely pushed it aside as they entered. 

It also turned out that not only were the Mendezs were innocent of any crime, but the property owner was not only not the parolee that the deputies were seeking, but the warrantless search of his house turned-up nothing of interest. In a press release from the law firm representing the Mendezs, it was noted that “The verdict was awarded on the heels of the United States Department of Justice’s two year investigation and findings that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies in the Antelope Valley engaged in a widespread pattern of unreasonable force, unlawful detention, intimidation and illegal searches”—mainly targeting Latinos. 

Attorney David Drexler went on to say that “The case has far reaching implications for impoverished individuals to be protected from unlawful searches and use of excessive force by law enforcement.”  A noble sentiment, but perhaps a naïve one. The Mendezs were fortunate that they survived to tell their tale; if they had not, they would have been less than a footnote in another entry in the police blotter, more anonymous nobodies who no cares if they live or die—fit only to be chased around like vermin.