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No need to repair to Zimmerman's personal account (volunteered without counsel). The recordings, forensic evidence, eyewitness testimony, and maps of the complex paint a passable portrait.


As has been pointed out, the Retreat at Twin Lakes had a racially mixed set of residents. This was nothing new for George Zimmerman, who grew up in Prince William County, Virginia. Prince William County is 21% black; the Census Bureau provides counts of the racial composition of 41 census tracts in Prince William County. Only one has a black majority, so the black population is not all that concentrated therein. There actually is considerable integration in this country and a measure of cordiality in workplaces, in diners, and, more infrequently, in residential tracts.

There is a distinction between people's understanding of their mundane life and their understanding of the civil society in which they live. Characters like Benjamin Crump and Al Sharpton have been raking the bucks by tapping into a narrative about the civil society which draws very little on people's palpable experience.

By way of example, about 4.5% of all homicides are ruled non-justiciable each year and about 4% of all homicides feature a black victim and an offender not black. If you posit these two phenomena do not co-vary, you have to figure there are about two dozen non-justiciable homicides of blacks by whites and others in this country in a typical year. In a metropolitan settlement of ordinary dimensions (say, Omaha or Sarasota), this sort of thing would be a twice-in-a-generation phenomenon. This is not mundane life.

This story would seem to indicate that the Sharptons are succeeding to some degree in influencing people as well as raking in the bucks:


Thomas Sowell's hypothesis about 'civil rights' organizations is as follows: at one time they were salient for the interests and quality of life of blacks, and in that time they tended to recruit and promote men of quality. Now that they are unimportant, they tend to employe buffoons looking for a paycheck.

Most black organizations in 1960 had a distinct institutional mission of their own and were not mobilized for political protest then or later. The National Urban League was an exception, but when the dust had settled, it could re-assign manpower to its ongoing social work projects and continue as before.

However, you had four notable organizations for which political agitation of one sort or another was their raison d'etre. They were the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee. SNCC was taken over by black nationalists in 1966 and then imploded in 1968. CORE was taken over by black nationalists in 1966 and then decayed into an income source for a man named Roy Innes; as long ago as 1989, its founding director said it was a complete fraud. SCLC was founded as a temporary clearinghouse and co-ordinator for public protests; it has not had a distinct organizational mission in 40-odd years. They were reduced at one point to hiring Martin King III (who has no seminary training and a spotty employment history) as their director, then canning him for absenteeism.

As for the NAACP, they had a velvet divorce from their litigation arm in 1957, so they are not needed to represent anyone in court. They have since 1983 had a series of tacky scandals. At one point, they did something unusual and hired a retired telecom executive as their executive secretary, then disposed of him after two years and put the current director in charge. This fellow Benjamin Jealous has no real trade. He has been a race obsessed publicist his entire adult life. When they put Jealous in charge, the board passed a resolution on redoubling efforts toward the priority on their agenda: a federal "hate crimes" bill. Again, they have no serious institutional mission.

Two organizations with a national profile have been founded since 1968. One was Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH, and the other was Al Sharpton's "National Action Network". It has been remarked that the most practical and programmatic thing PUSH ever did operated rather like a protection racket. As for Sharpton, everybody knows what a mountebank he is; there are some things you just cannot hide.

Eric Hoffer was quite correct in this case: what starts as a cause decays into a business decays into a racket.


Now, in 1954, the only elected officials you had in the black community were several score machine wheelhorses in Chicago and various other places. The black population has the same problem everyone else does: quality does not seek out political office. On the occasions it does, it ofteh has very obscure motors and goals (think Mitt Romney) or has glaring shortcomings for all that it is capable and accomplished (think Rudolph Giuliani). The best of black elected officials are often rather ill-treated by the electorate (think David Patterson and Adrian Fenty).

I don't recognize those last two names.

I'm reluctant to conclude racket but I must say there is evidence, especially in the case of Sharpton and Jackson. I can never think of Sharpton without also remembering the Reverend Bacon in Bonfire of the Vanities.

I think for some of these people there must also be a sort of nostalgia and sense of lost purpose, even lost identity. And lost clarity. Elves vs. orcs is a lot more fun than people vs. people.

David Patterson was the Governor of New York. He had some troublesome aspects, but he made an honest effort to goad the legislature into being passable stewards of the public purse. The entire political class seemed to despise him. As an indicator of the pathology in the political culture in New York, 83% of the public here agreed. Someone once said that at 50, you have the face you deserve, and that's the New York electorate. David Patterson is the only normal human being who has sat in the governor's chair in 30 years, and he could not bother to stand for re-election.

As for Adrian Fenty, the superintendent of schools he appointed was a threat to the job security of member of the black administrative class, and they engineered a counter-mobilization that put Vincent Business-as-Usual Gray in the D.C. Mayor's chair. The D.C. electorate is another mass of people who can look in the mirror and see Hunter S. Thompson.

Just to tell you who got re-elected in New York:

1. Mario Cuomo. Business as usual, for the most part, and that means a fiscal mess every year and a bloated public sector. The reporters covering him by and large came to the conclusion he was something of a head case (strange calls at 6:00 am to individual reporters complaining about coverage). I had a dear friend who was once on the staff of the legislature and a savvy observer of New York politics. His description of Cuomo: 'megalomaniac'. I also knew a well-connected political family in the Bronx whose son offered this assessment of the Cuomos (father and son): "thugs at heart". The man's sheer vindictiveness was an amazement for people who had crossed him.

2. George Pataki. Jay Gallagher of the Times-Union of Albany offered that his was just a thoroughgoingly cynical administration. Five minutes in the room with the man would make your skin crawl; he has the air of a man immensely amused by how he puts one over on the marks.

3. Elliot Spitzer. Read Megan McArdle on his treatment of the financial sector as attorney-general. (He also went after crisis pregnancy centers). The man is even more vindictive than the Cuomos. Before he was forced to resign in a sex scandal, his administration was hitting the ropes because he had sicced the state police on the state senate Republican leader. (The $80,000 he spent on hookers under the pseudonym 'client #9' was at least amusing; he could not pull a Clinton and brazen it all out because the U.S. Attorney's office put the screws to him).

4. Andrew Cuomo. See above.


Keep in mind that Spitzer was voted into office with 72% of the vote. One grasps for an explanation (other than the Republicans can no longer organize state-wide campaigns anymore). Pataki was returned to office 3x, as was Cuomo. People complain about Albany to no end in New York, then 99.6% of sitting legislators are re-elected.

Oh yeah, I remember the DC mess. Sounded like classical organizational dysfunction.

I know it's very bad of me, but I sort of hope NYC elects Anthony Wiener.

I'm reluctant to conclude racket

What else do you call it? Again, the number of blacks in this country killed by whites & others numbers about 600 a year, or about two a year in an ordinary size metropolitan center. That's six hundred local crime stories, not a systemic social problem with signature features. The number that are not prosecuted due to prosecutorial nonfeasance is indubitably miniscule. The number of perpetrators advancing some sort of white supremacist program is also miniscule. Why would a 'federal hate crimes' law be your priority if you actually had anything to say (given all the other problems there are in the black population)? They do not claim to be some niche organization, like the charity who sends me appeals to contribute to a fund for hairlip and cleft palate surgeries.

The NAACP decided in 2000 to intervene in a presidential election. Why they wanted to burn their bridges to the Republican candidate I cannot figure (bar that Julian Bond is just a fanatic). They recruited the daughter of a very unfortunate man in Texas who had been the victim of a grisly murder to provide narration for a commercial attacking the Republican candidate, as if he were responsible for every homicide in the state occurring when he was the governor. Why do you know the names of James Byrd and Trayvon Martin? Because this sort of thing just does not happen very often.

So, they sink their efforts into combatting something rare and mobilize to have a private citizen in Florida subject to double jeopardy and sent to a federal prison for a decade because he shot someone subjecting him to a ground n' pound. Is that the principle they are advancing, that black adolescents get one free beatdown?

"Racket" is too kind.

I don't disagree with your list of stupidities. But "racket" implies a very conscious scheme for making illicit profit. I'm not convinced that more subtle things aren't at work, making it possible for them to believe they really should be doing this stuff--sheer dim-wittedness, a sort of hysteria, the other stuff we were discussing about waning purpose and influence, etc.

Btw there was an incident here a few years ago where a white man shot a black man who I believe was unarmed. I've forgotten a lot of the details but I think the basic outline was: The white man--kid, really--was having an argument with his girlfriend in the parking lot of an apartment complex, and it was turning violent. The black guy tried to intervene. The white guy shot him. The white guy was, uncontroversially, sent to prison.

I am further appalled by:

"I wish [the juror] had held out, but I can’t blame her for following the letter of the law, and not quite grasping how much power she really possessed."

That's the most but not the only appalling thing in this piece. That a voting citizen with enough education to be employed as a writer for a major newspaper could write that is pretty horrifying.


The author is a career journalist. As Sowell says, mustn't confound intelligent people with articulate people.

That's another bit of madness in New York. They have had a remarkable turnaround under two flawed but capable men. When the history of the postwar era in urban policy is written a generation from now it will have to be periodized into Before Giuliani and After Giuliani. Now, of all the people in New York who have capably run large organizations, who are they looking at for their next mayor - diBlasio, Diesel, and Dickpix. None of these people have any trade. They have spent their lives in electoral and non-electoral politics and all of them are running on a platform of reversing important innovations in police work. (Oh, and diBlasio wants George Zimmerman in prison). It is just too sad. There are a couple of Republican businessmen seeking the office, but I expect they will be token opposition.

I assumed career journalist, alas. Editor of the Living section so you wouldn't expect a finely honed intellect, but still--"how much power she truly possessed" is pretty scary. At least she's willing to forgive following the letter of the law.

By the way, Art, I do read all of your long comments. I don't necessarily make any reply, either for lack of time or because I don't have anything to add (or argue with).

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