Monday, July 15, 2013

Not Guilty

It seems that those two little words are only the beginning of the conversation.

It's a conversation our country needs to have. There are a lot of people saying that the jury has spoken and we should move on; however, I seem to recall many of these same people just being unable to get over the Casey Anthony verdict for a long time. Whether you agree or disagree with either verdict, there does seem to be a bit of hypocrisy here.

Why do we want to move on from this case so fact, but still dwell on Casey Anthony? I think that's a question people need to ask themselves. Some people seem to be obsessing over how the media, or the prosecution, or whatever didn't portray Martin "as the thug he was".

My question is, why does it matter? Youth of many races make many bad decisions involving crime, drugs, and fighting. But they don't get the death penalty for that.

Without getting into the verdict, what do we know 100% for sure about that night? That George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. I think that's pretty much all we know for sure.

I ask you this: if you had a troubled teen who got killed (rightly or wrongly), would you feel better about it because he had problems? Would you say "well my kid smoked pot, so I'm okay with it"? Would you say "well he got in a lot of fights, so I expected him to get shot eventually"?

Again, I repeat that this particular post neither supports nor disagrees with the verdict. I'm just trying to understand why people are so obsessed with trying to say that "he's a thug so it's okay". I've heard bad things about both Zimmerman's and Martin's pasts on the same news networks, so I don't know that they've made some sort of attempt to show bias. However, I think it's a general thing to be respectful to the dead where possible. I'm sure if Martin killed Zimmerman that night, the media would dig less into his past than Martin's.

As much as some people wish to deny it, race is still very much a big deal in our country. Not everything is about race, but so much about this case certainly is. We as a country need to figure out how we can do better. This is one of many senseless killings in this country, and we need to look for ways to do stop them. It took a long series of events to lead up to the confrontation that ended with Trayvon Martin's life being taken; was every step in that process necessary? Maybe this is the question we should be considering most of all.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Obviousness is in the Eye of the Beholder

"It's obvious Zimmerman acted in self-defense."

"It's obvious Zimmerman hunted down and murdered Trayvon Martin."

There are many people who believe that each of the above statements is true (not both at the same time, of course).

I've been following the trial relatively closely, and one thing seems obvious to me: nothing is obvious here.

There were a very small number of eye-witnesses to the event. Even then, they were a good distance away, it was dark, and none can say for sure who was screaming for help.

The girl that was on the phone with Trayvon in the minutes leading up to the incident told the court what happened, but she may or may not be telling the truth, given that she has an obvious prior relationship with the deceased.

Did Zimmerman follow Martin after being told not to? Did Martin double-back and attack Zimmerman? There isn't clear evidence either way. It seems that people's bias has really got them to see things that aren't there, to make the unclear obvious.

In a normal trial, this would be good for the defense. It is generally the job of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime. But Zimmerman is going with a self-defense claim. Self-defense is an affirmative defense. This means some of the burden of proof swings to their side. They must put forth convincing evidence to show that Zimmerman did not begin the confrontation that ended Trayvon Martin's life. And I'm just not sure that evidence is there. I don't think there's a witness (other than Zimmerman himself, who wouldn't be 100% reliable for obvious reasons) that can definitively say that Trayvon attacked Zimmerman while Zimmerman was walking away from Trayvon.

So what happened? Only one living person knows, and he may or may not tell us, depending on whether or not in incriminates him.

What else isn't obvious? What the jury will do. As murky as this case is, and as many variables as there are, the jury doesn't have an easy task ahead of them. I don't think they'll come back with a murder conviction. What I think will happen, and personally agree with, would be a manslaughter conviction. I don't know everything that happened that tragic night, but I think I can say that Zimmerman's actions led to the death of Martin.

Then again, as is the theme of this case, I'm not 100% sure of this. Anything from murder to acquittal is possible, and no one will know what will happen until it happens, regardless of what "experts" or random watches seem to "know".

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Between a Rock and a Racist Place

With the George Zimmerman murder trial kicking into high gear, discussion of racism and racist elements in American culture is at a high level.

Now, there are racist people, and there are people who aren't racist. Of course. This goes for people from all walks of life; liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans. You'll find racists and non-racists in each group.

The problem I have is as follows: certain racist people think that they can be as racist as they want, and when they get called out for being racist, they come back acting the victim, claiming their accuser is "playing the race card". This reminds me very much of bullies in high school. They will bully you relentlessly, and the moment you try to talk or fight back, they run to the teacher and say "topspin1617 is being a bully to me!"

I've been spending some time reading through comments and analysis of testimony from the Zimmerman case, and it greatly saddens me. There are clearly people who are extremely racist who have taken a great interest in seeing Zimmerman acquitted. To be clear, I'm not talking about every Zimmerman supporter; I realize that there are many people who think Zimmerman is just not guilty based on the evidence, regardless of the fact that Trayvon Martin was black. That's perfectly fine; I may not share the opinion that Zimmerman is innocent, but I respect the fact that others may have a different viewpoint from my own.

Read the comment section on any article about the case on, for example, Yahoo! (yes, yes, I know I call Yahoo! out a lot) and you'll see what I'm talking about. Here's a link to one such article, this one specifically about the testimony from Rachel Jeantel. Browse through the comments and you'll find no shortage of people calling her "ghetto" among other insults, not that whether or not she is "ghetto" has any relevance to the trial. This is bad enough, but what annoys me even more are the comments made against people who call out these racist remarks. Apparently, it's okay to make racist remarks, but calling out a person who makes such a remark is unacceptable. It means you're being racist against whites. It means you want Zimmerman convicted simply because Martin was black.

This is the mentality that is driving a wedge right down the center of American culture. To many of us, it is not okay to be racist. To many others, however, it is not okay to call out someone else for overtly being racist. This is a divide that seems to have no easy solution, as the two positions are in such combative opposition to each other that even bringing the topic up lights the proverbial powder keg.

It saddens me that this is what America is today. I look at the Zimmerman trial and see a man on trial for gunning down an unarmed teenager walking to his father's house from the store. I won't pretend to know exactly what happened that tragic night, but in my opinion the evidence supports that Zimmerman was guilty of provoking the confrontation that led to the end of Martin's life, making him guilty of at least manslaughter. This does not make me racist against whites (even though Zimmerman isn't even really white), nor does it make me biased in favor of blacks. You may disagree with me on the evidence of the case, and think that Trayvon was the one that started the fight; again, this does not make you racist. This trial is extremely racially charged, but people need to realize that it is possible to have an opinion on the case without being racially biased one way or the other. Once people realize this, I think it may finally be possible to have a civil conversation about the trial, and maybe other matters facing our country as well.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Super Smash Bros: The Waiting Game

So, I'm a big gamer.

I'll play a little bit of everything, but Nintendo is by far my favorite video game company. It seems that being a Nintendo fan has some sort of stigma attached to it in the video game community; I don't think I'll ever fully understand that. For me, Nintendo has, by far, the most iconic characters and series in all of gaming: Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Star Fox, Fire Emblem, Metroid, and more.

Sure, Nintendo doesn't own every iconic series ever made; there's Metal Gear, Call of Duty, Halo, and many more series that Nintendo does not own, and some of which have never even appeared on a Nintendo console. In my opinion, however, it is the unique and colorful characters that make Nintendo what it is. Sure, Nintendo is constantly trying new things, like introducing the thumb-controlled analog stick on the Nintendo 64, the motion controls of the Wii, and more recently the Wii U GamePad tablet controller. These innovations are always interesting, sometimes brilliant, and sometimes annoying. But it is the games themselves, the legendary series, that set Nintendo apart from its competitors.

This is the reason the Super Smash Bros. series is so insanely popular. What's better than a bunch of games featuring some of the best characters in gaming? Why, throwing all of those characters into one game, of course! Nowhere else can you find out if Mario can beat Link while dodging lightning jolts from Pikachu and lasers shot by Fox McCloud. The games are just fun, pure and simple.

Recently, Nintendo has announced the fourth iteration in the Super Smash Bros. series to be released on Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS in 2014. Obviously, speculation about features of the upcoming game is running rampant across internet, from the character roster to stages to music to the physics engine. Everyone has their own opinion on which characters they want in the game, and which characters they think are likely. Everyone including me.

Nintendo made a huge splash at E3 by announcing 9 returning characters (who were hardly a surprise) and three characters new to the series: Villager (from Animal Crossing), Wii Fit Trainer (it doesn't need to be said which game she's from), and Mega Man. All three of these characters were shocking in their own way. An Animal Crossing stage already appeared in Brawl without going along with a playable character, so many thought this meant Animal Crossing would never have a playable character. The developer of the series, Masahiro Sakurai, also once stated that Animal Crossing was a very peaceful game and its characters weren't suited to fighting. The inclusion of Wii Fit Trainer was absolutely insane (yet somehow perfect); it's fitting that her initials are an anagram of WTF. Finally, Mega Man, as with any third-party character, could hardly be expected. Brawl broke precedent by including two third-party characters (Sonic and Snake), but the standard for any non-Nintendo character getting into the series is still incredibly high. This is, after all, a Nintendo fighter. It must be said, however, that Mega Man's history with Nintendo makes him more deserving of a spot in the Smash Bros. series than any other third-party character (Sonic and Snake included).

Anyway, out of excitement waiting for the game (and some boredom on my part), I decided to make my own roster prediction. My roster contains 45 characters (not counting transformations); since Brawl had 35 (by the same standard), I think this is a reasonable number. Every character on my roster is either returning from a previous installment in the series, is already a confirmed newcomer, or else has (in my opinion) a very real shot of being playable in the upcoming game. My roster was made with part prediction, part logic, and, yes, part personal desire. Without further adieu, here it is:

(Note: The Z.S. Samus near the bottom left is supposed to represent Wii Fit Trainer; the program I used didn't have an icon for her and I was too lazy to make one.)

The red borders are supposed to represent that a character is unlockable rather than being a starting character, though that's not really the point.

I've cut 3 characters from Brawl: Toon Link, Ike, and Lucario. Toon Link, while fun, is hardly necessary, and was the easiest character to cut to make room for another (I mean come on... he's still Link). Lucario was replaced with Mewtwo, even though Lucario is actually my favorite character in Brawl. I felt that Mewtwo, together with some mechanic of transforming into Awakened Mewtwo, could satisfy those who were upset that he was cut from Melee and represent the newest generation of Pokemon at the same time. Finally, Ike was cut to make room for Chrom. Chrom is the main character of the newest (and very popular) entry in the Fire Emblem series. However, that is not to say that Chrom should be an Ike clone; in fact, I envision Shulk and his Monado taking over most of Ike's A-button moveset, while having new specials (admittedly, none of Ike's B-moves, other than maybe side-B, were very impressive anyway).

Other than the roster itself, my main desire is for Ganondorf to receive an entirely new moveset. Ganondorf has been a ripoff of Captain Falcon for way too long, and a character of his stature deserves better (not to mention that nothing in his current moveset represents anything he does in the entire Zelda series). I don't actually want him to use his sword; even though he uses it in some of his more recent appearances, I think Smash has enough sword users, and that Ganondorf is capable of a lot without a sword. He has projectiles, shockwave slams, and the ability to produce phantoms (Ocarina of Time) and ride a horse (Twilight Princess; hey, if Wario can pull a motorcycle out of nowhere, why not a horse? Though the ability to attack the horse like Wario's motorcycle may not be a good thing...). Ganondorf is the only character who I can't stand to be a semi-clone; Falco, Wolf, Luigi, etc. are understandable, though more separation wouldn't be a bad thing. Ganondorf, however, is intolerable.

What do you think of the roster? Like it? Hate it? Uncontrollably angry that I removed a few characters? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Red Line

Ever since this war in Syria has escalated, the right has been ridiculing President Obama for sitting back and doing nothing. They have called him weak for allowing Assad to slaughter his own people without stepping in and doing something. They said, how could the greatest nation in the world stand idly by and allow this atrocity to continue?

Obama said that the use of chemical weapons was a red line. It may have taken a while (maybe they wanted to confirm without a shadow of a doubt that it actually happened after the whole Iraq WMD debacle, maybe there were second thoughts, I don't know), but it seems that Obama is now prepared to offer some sort of support to the rebels. And what is the response to this decision?

"Biggest F'ing mistake by the Admin so far. I don't want American blood, sweat, or tears, spent on anything to do with either side in this civil war. Let the EU handle it if they must, but keep us the hell out of it."

"we need to take our own country back.
this is NOT what the American people want."

"Do they remotely care about the American people want?!! We need to stay out of this! This is a sectarian, civil war. There are atrocities on both sides. Neither side is our friend. If the Syrian people want this war to end, they simply have to stop shooting at each other. This isn't our concern!"

"The US decides to arm terrorists once again?"

"More of our boy's [sic] being sent to a place we don't belong to fight a fight that's not our own."

(Quotes taken from the comment section of this Yahoo! article.)

I'm pretty sure that these comments mostly come from the same side of the isle condemning Obama for ignoring Syria.

I understand that Obama has made mistakes, I am more than willing to admit that. No one is perfect. But how can someone possibly succeed when EVERY option is apparently wrong?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Racial Wealth Gap Is Not A Democratic Conspiracy

This Yahoo! article about the racial wealth gap caught my attention today; well, the article and, as always on Yahoo!, the comments following it.

I'm trying to figure out why so many people take offense whenever an article like this is written.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see this article as "trying to incite race wars" or "making people hate whites". It is simply stating factual information and statistics, and explaining why those statistics are a problem.

It is an unfortunate fact that the wealth gap builds upon itself through generations. Is it possible to overcome poor roots to be successful? Of course it is. But if, on average, whites have more wealth than blacks and hispanics now, then, on average, that will continue to be true in future generations. It's simple math.

Of course there will be minorities that excel despite their background. There will be whites that struggle despite their background. There are always exceptions to the rule.

It seems that people really have a hard time understanding statistics. When someone mentions an "average", they are not saying that EVERY member of the group falls in line with that number. Averages are not conspiracies; just because someone doesn't want to hear the reality doesn't mean it isn't there. Yes, some people are content to use their background as an excuse to not work hard, not try hard. It happens, and it is not helpful to the debate. But the fact is that some people (from all races) just never get the opportunity to really succeed, and the poorer kids get fewer opportunities. This is the problem that keeps feeding itself; less money -> less opportunities -> less success -> less money.

So you see, it's just not as simple as "work hard and you can be successful as anyone". I believe that anyone has the ability to improve upon where they came from if they work hard; the thing is, sometimes the gap between starting points is so large that an improvement on an awful position is still far behind what anyone would consider truly successful.

All the people that are so quick to say things like "just save your money" or "well I know this one black guy who is rich, so this article is obviously liberal propaganda" should really step back, take a moment, and really think about this. Take off the political glasses; this isn't about Democrats and Republicans. Poverty affects everyone in the country; everyone is quick to complain about "paying taxes so the poor don't have to work", but for some reason, everyone wants to dismiss the issue as if the answer is as simple as a kid putting coins in a piggy bank. I'd like to think that, if it were really that simple, people wouldn't be poor; believe it or not, an overwhelming majority of poor people have enough dignity that they would prefer to earn their own living instead of having to rely on government support.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Taxes Are Not Evil

This is addressed to all those conservatives who seem to think taxes are evil.
I actually wonder if the people who complain about paying taxes have any clue what they're talking about. How else is the government supposed to function? Funding for roads, schools, farms, Congress, etc., has to come from somewhere.

I'm not saying that many tax dollars aren't misused. There are a LOT of places where tax dollars could be used more effectively, and we should be actively trying to make sure the dollars are used in the best way possible. But "I don't like the way that dollar was used, therefore I shouldn't pay taxes at all" is NOT a valid argument. No person is ever going to agree with everything the government does, it just isn't possible. Get over it.

I see a lot of people who get angry with the "poor people" who get upset about rich people and companies dodging taxes. I saw someone comment that we "shouldn't get mad because the rich know how to play the game". These same people ridicule the poor for getting away with not paying taxes. This doesn't make sense to me; if you applaud the rich for doing whatever they can to avoid taxes, shouldn't you also have to applaud the woman who has 9 kids just to collect the government benefits and avoid paying taxes? I don't personally agree with either situation; I'm just saying it seems a bit hypocritical to support one and not the other.

Rich people seem to have such a hatred of the social programs. Some people misuse them, and we should do all we can to identify these people; however, the majority of people are on these programs because it is legitimately needed. Do you really believe that everyone who is on government assistance is "living the good life" without having to work? Is this REALLY how you envision the life of someone who is on public assistance? If so, I encourage you to visit a family who needs this help. I encourage you to try to live on the amount of money these people have to live on. There are many HARD working people who need assistance because their full-time job doesn't give them enough money to live on.

Furthermore, many "patriots" love to complain about how countries like North Korea, Russia, Cuba, etc. let their people starve because of the way their government operates. The comments, though, would seem to prefer that we do the exact same thing with our people here in the USA. I, frankly, would not stand for it. I don't live on public assistance; at the same time, I'm a student who works very hard to get by. The fact that I am more likely to give a couple bucks to a person in need than someone who makes millions of dollars a year is very saddening to me.

I find it amusing that these are the people who claim to be bigger "patriots" than everyone else. These are the people who claim to love America the most, who say that America is the best country on the planet. These are the people who say that the liberals and the Democrats are trying to destroy America. Yet, they'll leave the country and denounce their citizenship in a snap if it means saving a few bucks? I guess what they really mean is that they love America, as long as they, and ONLY they, can benefit from it. Personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable calling a country that lets its citizens and poor children starve to death the greatest country on the planet. And somehow, this is precisely what these people want. They just don't realize that if they let the poor and middle class all die off, their stream of income would stop. Whose hard work are you going to ride to the top if there isn't anyone left who needs to work for a living? Who's going to buy your products if the only people left already have everything? Who's going to be left on a "lower" level than you to give you that feeling of superiority that you so DESPERATELY need?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obama's Gun Proposals, and a Changing World

I've never really been a fan of the "bad guys don't follow laws, so we shouldn't make laws" point of view. The same logic could be applied to any criminal laws on the books, but of course people want to pretend that the logic magically stops where guns end. To that end, the President is unveiling some very common-sense proposals to attempt to prevent another tragedy.

The proposals seem to be focused on preventing mass shootings and violence in schools. We all agree that violence doesn't stop with these events, but does that mean we shouldn't do something about them if we can? I can't see a reason that each of these proposals doesn't make good, common sense? As the President himself said, no law will be able to prevent every shooting. But if a law has a chance to curb some of the violence without trampling people's rights, what's the problem with that?

Please, someone, explain to me how an assault weapons ban, or limiting the size of a clip to a reasonable size, is an "assault on freedom and the Second Amendment". The amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. You can sure as hell be well-armed without owning an assault weapon or a high-capacity clip. You'd have to be a moron to own 20 guns and say "gee, I'm not bearing arms". Reasonable restrictions do NOT violate the second amendment.

Furthermore, times have changed since the Constitution was drafted. Would the Second Amendment be worded in the open ended way it is if the types of powerful guns that exist today had existed then? Nobody knows, but I believe the Founding Fathers would be sick to their stomachs at the thought of military style weapons being used to mow down civilians, and especially children. The Constitution is a great document, but the Founding Fathers recognized the importance of growing as times changed; that's why they included the ability to draft new laws and amend the Constitution. Statements that applied centuries ago may not necessarily apply now. It amazes me that we have seemingly regressed in our thought to the point where we no longer understand the importance of adapting to the changing world; that we no longer understand what the Founding Fathers understood, all those years ago.

Finally, as kind of a side remark, why is it that the people so hellbent on protecting the Second Amendment seem to be so willing to trample on the First Amendment? Things like trying to deport Piers Morgan because you don't agree with what he used his First Amendment right to say flies directly in the face of the Constitution you claim to be defending.

Maybe all of these sentiments can easily be summed up in two words: grow up.