Somebody else

A friend writes to suggest that George Zimmerman’s detention on domestic-violence charges offers me the opportunity to crow. I am reminded of a fine old Bert Williams song that I once heard Dave van Ronk perform.

Ivory bones with ebony dots
oft lead to cemetery lots.
A game last night brought on a fight
that ended up in pistol shots.
I was the furthest from the door;
the others all got out before.
Upon the floor a man lay dead,
and through the transom someone said—

Somebody will have to stay behind.
Someone must remain.
And later, when the police arrive,
explain why this, our brother,
is no longer alive.
The man who stays and sees it through
will gain celebrity.
It’s a wonderful chance for somebody.
Somebody else, not me.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

65 thoughts on “Somebody else”

  1. Is George Zimmerman the right wing’s Rodney King? Sounds like it…They say he was a victim and deserved to walk because of self-defense. But the guy just can’t stay out of trouble….

    1. Well, I don’t remember anyone on the left excusing King’s drug record, he didn’t kill anyone, and he made a heartfelt plea for people to come together. Meanwhile, the right is convinced Zimmerman is a great neighbor, he did kill someone, and he celebrates his status as an icon to those people who fantasize their Charles Bronson moment. Otherwise, you’re spot-on.

      1. Now why would right-wingers identify with a loser shlub? Perhaps Zimmerman should change his name to Walter Mitty.

      2. So Warren, take a look at this Wikipedia entry on Rodney King post-trial and it included spousal abuse:

        “King continued to get into trouble after the 1991 incident. On August 21, 1993, he crashed his car into a block wall in downtown Los Angeles.[33] He was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, fined, entered an alcohol rehabilitation program and was placed on probation. In July 1995, he was arrested by Alhambra police after hitting his wife with his car and knocking her to the ground. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail after being convicted of hit and run.[34] King invested a portion of his settlement in a record label, Straight Alta-Pazz Records, which went under.[35] On August 27, 2003, King was arrested again for speeding and running a red light while under the influence of alcohol. He failed to yield to police officers and slammed his vehicle into a house, breaking his pelvis.[36] On November 29, 2007, while riding home on his bicycle, King was shot in the face, arms, and back with pellets from a shotgun. He reported that it was done by a man and a woman who demanded his bicycle and shot him when he rode away.[34] Police described the wounds as looking like they came from birdshot, but said King offered few details about the suspects.”

        Your points are still well taken. But I am only saying that we spoke of King as a victim, and the right sees Zimmerman as a victim who was defending himself. That’s it. And I think we are right to speak of King as a victim in the police brutality episode and Zimmerman as not a victim in his stalking and killing of Trayvon Martin. I’m also not saying the left excused King’s post trial behavior. I find most of what passes for the left of any notoriety has far more rational and subtle opinions about the complexities of life and that a victim in one instance may be anything but in another context. I again simply found it interesting that these high profile and people caught up in political trials can’t seem to stay out of trouble and that the right wing will now live with the complexities of the human being they called victim.

        1. No; the Left sees King as someone who happened to be victimized, while the Right sees Zimmerman as a holy martyr, virtuous and blameless, an upright and noble man doing the right thing and being persecuted for it. Was King a messed-up dude with a criminal record, no money, no education, drug and health problems, and a tendency to associate with others who suffered all those problems and to get each other into trouble? Sure. That was his life before he was videotaped getting beaten to a pulp, it was entirely predictable it would be his life after. But – and this is critical – before he became famous, Zimmerman was a rageaholic asshole with a habit of looking for opportunities to prove what a tough guy he was, and it was similarly predictable he’d stay that way afterwards, that this ridiculous Travis Bickel character would preen and pose and get into fights. But the Right is delighted with him, while the Left regretted Rodney King’s troubles and his flaws. Even on the nights they each became famous: the Left excoriates King for driving while drunk and hopped up, while demanding the cops not beat him to a pulp, while the Right insists that Zimmerman’s latest evening of patrolling the streets like an addict in search of one more hit of Macho Fantasy was perfectly normal. The difference matters!

          Look at this here thread: You have Brett lusting after the chance to inhale deeply of Zimmerman’s manly aroma – because, after all, Zimmerman is a great and a good man, and all he did was defend the world against one more indistinguishable Black thug. The way the Left uses King and the way the Right uses Zimmerman are completely and utterly different.

    2. Aside from what Warren says, I’d just point out that, as I remember it, Rodney King was the victim of a particularly nasty beating by the LAPD after he already had been subdued. He wasn’t charged with any kind of a crime as a result of that incident so it’s not like he got away with murder or anything. There wasn’t any rap for him to beat.

      Also, as Warren pointed out, Rodney King wasn’t held up as some kind of paragon or role model by the left. He was just your basic ex convict with a troubled past and no future. The money and the notoriety joined forces with his personal demons so he ended up in any early grave. But, unlike Geroge Zimmerman, Rodney King did try to make things better. He spoke out against rioting and violence. He pleaded for people to just get along with each other. Which makes a lot of sense to me.

    3. Bad example / no comparison. Maybe you’re thinking of someone like Mumia, although that doesn’t work, since Mumia claimed he never killed anyone and was framed. There have been other cases where a minority shot a police officer and claimed self defense…that may be the better analogy. I know there are some actual cases out there, but all I can think of is the song “I shot the sheriff.”

  2. There’s something I like to call the “OJ Simpson rule”. Simply put it’s this: if you get away with murder, stay the [bleep] out of trouble after that.

    In addition to Simpson and Zimmerman, Joran van der Sloot is another example of it. These guys can’t help themselves.

    1. I agree. I think walking away from a murder rap gave these guys a feeling of power and of invulnerability. To borrow from The Boss, I think they felt like they had a hand the cops could never beat so they moving to the edge to recapture that feeling of power but they each misjudged why they beat the original charge and learned that the dynamic that lead to the acquittal had changed, which finished each of them. Well, Zimmerman has really fallen yet but he’s well on his way. I think it only a matter of time before he “defends” himself and “stands his ground” against another unarmed victim.

  3. She’s divorcing him, and allegations of domestic violence are remarkably common during divorce proceedings. Honestly, I don’t think any of us know what actually happened, beyond the obvious:

    You couldn’t convict him, but you’ve done a dandy job of destroying his life.

    1. Just who is meant by ‘you’ in that sentence? Mr Zimmerman has coming to him any trouble he gets into. OTOH there is definitely some ground for caution in a DV allegation in the context of a divorce dispute. Whatever happens to him in his divorce, he does not seem to have the wit or temperament to stay away from trouble. Time will tell. Meanwhile let him have the obscurity his talents deserve.

    2. Evidently the presence of a gun, even when fired, was not able to prevent the poor widdle gunman^H^H^H^H^H^HCitizen, so sadly born and raised and foisted out upon the world bereft of personal agency, from a continuing stream of criminal troubles.

      Yes that’s a parody of the Guns and The Citizen (or whatever it is/was called) column in the NRA Rifleman that I read so many times in my teens sitting on the can. I can thank it for providing the years long stream of explicit contradictions that helped turned me (intensely weapons trained at an early age) into the anti-Brett I am today.

      Readers of The Half-Made World can marvel at the real-world ironies of a Zimmerman and His Gun.

    3. The authors and commenters at RBC (who else might Brett mean by “you” in this context?) have collectively done either nothing or the next thing to it to destroy George Zimmerman’s life. He didn’t need a whole lot of help. The lesson of his story, to those who want to learn one, is that hopeless losers and guns do not felicitously mix. I expect we haven’t heard the last of Mr. Zimmerman, and the sequels will not be happy ones.

    4. Does it trouble you at all that Zimmerman wore his gun when he went to see his estranged wife in the midst of what is by all accounts an increasingly nasty divorce? I’ve always been of the opinion that guns and divorce don’t mix. How about you?

      Also, George Zimmerman didn’t need any help from anybody to destroy his own life. The reports of his marital troubles changes the way I look at the situation. It looks a lot like he was unhappy and angry about his problems at home. I think he went out looking for trouble and found a way to take out his anger on a unarmed teenager. I think he was spoiling for a chance to play policeman and point his gun at somebody. To me, hearing about his problems with his marriage and what his wife says about his anger management problems changes my take on what happened from a guy who used poor judgement and got into a situation that tragically spiraled out of control to that of a guy who was angry, went out looking for trouble and pushed and pushed until he had an opportunity to slake his hate and anger by using his gun.

      George Zimmerman is also a guy who felt no remorse at taking the life of a young man who was simply walking home in the rain. No remorse at all. Apparently, the trial hadn’t been over for even a month before he went for a photo opportunity at the gun maker that made the gun he used kill a young man who he’d evidently been stalking for some purpose or another. And now he goes everywhere armed and spoiling for another opportunity to kill.

      Nobody ruined his life. What has happened is that George Zimmerman became addicted to the limelight when prudence dictated that he should have scurried back under his rock the moment the trial was over. Now, with some help from his soon to be ex wife, we’re finally being shown what a foul, malevolent and despicable creature George Zimmerman really is.

      1. Does it bother you at all that, since the smear job the left did on Zimmerman attempting to craft him into a tool to get rid of “stand your ground”, he’s gotten so many death threats that if you printed them out and bound them, they’d look like a telephone book? The guy actually has a bounty on his head! Of course he carries a gun, if he didn’t it would be evidence he was suicidal.

        I can’t really blame his wife too much for not wanting to deal with all that, it’s probably pretty stressful living in hiding, never knowing when somebody is going to firebomb your home.

        1. The scary thing is, Brett probably believes this stuff about there being a bounty on Zimmerman’s head. Has Zimmerman received numerous death threats? Quite likely – he was in the public eye for that time when he killed a kid. Is the rest of Brett’s narrative utter nonsense? Why, yes, yes it is. On the other hand, even before he received death threats Zimmerman lived an active fantasy life that involved him roaming the streets, hoping for a chance to heroically Stop Crime, armed with nothing but a handgun, an SUV, a cell phone, martial arts training, and 250 pounds of body mass. Now, he has even more reason to envision a chance to dream that at any moment he might get to prove himself Charles Bronson made flesh. Yes, of course he carries a gun everywhere he goes – especially when he goes off to confront his estranged wife.

        2. Brett,

          Either you didn’t read the NPR piece you linked to or you have a much lower opinion of your fellow inhabitants of this blog than we have of you. The bounty was not for George Zimmerman’s murder but rather for his “arrest, which is presumably why local law enforcement urged people to leave the making of arrests to them. There’s no indication that there’s a price on Zimmerman’s head.

          There’s no bounty on this asshole and nobody besides his employees has seen these supposed death threats. What’s more, if he’d been receiving creditable threats and turning them over to the police, wouldn’t we be seeing arrests being made and restraining orders being sought? Zimmerman is just another punk with a gun who killed an unarmed man. He just had the fortune to do his killing in Florida instead of someplace civilized.

          1. I was almost ready to buy that too. Good thing I checked the link. I’ll try to remember to always be careful to check Bellmore’s cites, since he’s in the habit of lying about what they prove.

        3. If anyone destroyed his life it was the right-wing media who blew the guy so full of hot air, he thought he was the hero of Death Wish

        4. His wife seems to have left him before he killed Trayvon Martin. There’s no price on Zimmerman’s head. He says he’s received threats but there is no corroboration, nobody’s been arrested for making them and, insofar as is known, nobody’s threatened to firebomb his home, either.

          It’s not all that clear that carrying a gun would do him much good, either. Remember, if you believe his story, the finely honed fighting man that is George Zimmerman lost track of the boy he was stalking and actually all his prey to sneak up on him and get in his face. Regardless of who threw the first punch, it looks like Trayvon was giving boy George a good kicking and if he’d known Zimmerman was packing heat, probably would have taken his gun away and shoved it up Zimmerman’s ass. Presumably anyone coming after Zimmerman or otherwise interacting with him will have armed himself which, if Zimmerman’s past form is any indication, does not bode well for him.

          My advice to Zimmerman would be to hang up his guns. He can still play Billy the Kid in front of his bedroom mirror. He might not enjoy it as much as shooting an unarmed boy but it’s far more likely to work out better for him in the long run. .

        5. I love that you’re defending George Zimmermann. It’s both comical and fundamentally sad. You just can’t admit when some part of your worldview implodes, and especially when everyone on this site predicted it (i.e. Zimmermann being a terrible human being.

    5. Man, you’re in denial. I tried to point out that George Zimmerman had a history of violence before he’d ever run into Trayvon Martin. You studiously ignored all such comments.

      Yes, allegations of violence are common during divorce proceedings. However, violence allegations during divorce proceedings against someone who has *three* previous instances of violent behavior leading to arrest ought to be treated differently. While no single incident in this sequence has, so far, led to a conviction, those of us who are not on a jury would be morons to ignore the conditional probabilities involved here.

      We didn’t destroy George Zimmerman’s life. He has done that all by himself. And you really need to find a new poster child. Hanging with him now, after the 911 call involved in this incident, would serve only to confirm the accusations that your conviction of Trayvon Martin is based either his skin color or a simple desire to defend anyone who uses a gun.

      This is the moment where you either change your position or you validate all of the worst accusations that have been made against you. Can you manage to rise to the occasion?

        1. You mean the other two (if that’s correct) don’t count?

          Look Brett, your basic position here seems to be that nothing Zimmerman does is his own fault. Does that include the lies he told about his bail fund, or what that the fault of the “gun-grabbers” too?

          1. I am aware of several incidents of violence in his life. There was the time somebody accosted his friend, and he came to said friend’s assistance until the guy got around to identifying himself as an undercover cop. There’s his successful self-defense. And there are domestic violence allegations in the context of a divorce.

            So, you’ve got a guy who’s willing to defend his friends and himself, and who may or may not have been falsely charged with domestic violence, but the charges were dropped. Sorry, not impressed with what a violent individual he is.

            Nor am I impressed with this enthusiasm over an acquitted man’s life falling apart. No, you couldn’t nail him in court, so you’re glad to see his life fall in ruins from the side effects of the effort. Not impressed at all by the way you’re doing a victory dance over this.

            Meanwhile, every day the Travon Martins of the world rack up a toll of dead and battered bodies with barely any note. The only reason you ever heard of Zimmerman, unlike so many others who’ve been attacked, is that he didn’t end up dead on the pavement in Martin’s place, and the left needed a scapgoat to whip up rage for your causes.

            If it had been Zimmerman dead on the pavement, you’d never have heard of him.

          2. Note how assiduously Brett avoids mention of Mr. Zimmerman’s lying.

            I wonder. Does a prevaricator have to be a twice-elected Democratic president for lying to matter to the Bretts of this world?

          3. Three times? That is at least one too many. As Goldinger said “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action”.

        2. Despite the wish to generalize, there is no independence evidence that Zimmerman was attacked by anyone. There was a struggle and he was getting the worst of it so much that he feared for his life. But no one witnessed the start of the brawl – for that we have only hs word.

          1. I think packing a gun where ever he goes is proof of being constantly in fear for his life. Also it must be a royal pain in the but to haul that hunk of iron around all day.
            I grew up in Baltimore in the sixties and seventies, walked anywhere I felt like any time of day or night and never felt the need for a weapon and never had any trouble to speak of (well there was that one fight). The trick to not needing a gun: mind your own business. It’s amazing how not sticking your finger in other peoples’ face can reduce the risk of violent altercations. But then of course there are guys like George Zimmerman roaming around so there is that.

          2. Good points, Fred. Walking around unarmed requires a combination of brains and testicular fortitude that the George Zimmermans and Brett Bellmores of the world are not blessed with.

    6. Zimmerman’s life is not as destroyed as Trayvon Martin’s — or doesn’t that matter to you, Brett?

      1. Yes, actually: I’d prefer Martin had lived to face assault charges, or better yet, not assaulted Zimmerman. I just happen to prefer live victims and dead assailants to dead victims and live assailants, though both alive ranks even higher.

        1. If Zimmerman hadn’t been out looking for trouble Trayvon Martin wouldn’t have confronted the man who was stalking him and none of this would have happened. You know, we’re talking about a man who wore his gun to confront his estranged wife and kept menacingly fondling the handle of his gun as though he need to be ready to make a fast draw in case his wife went for a bag of Skittles.

        2. The failure to convict George Zimmerman does not imply the conviction of Martin for anything. But continue to talk as if it has been established that Martin is guilty of assault or is an “assailant”.

    7. Hey Brett, whatever happened to that “personal responsibility” thing? No one destroyed GZ’s life. Personal responsibility … remember?

    8. After, of course, he destroyed a young man’s life for being guilty of walking through a white neighborhood armed with tea and skittles. Brett, you’re amazing.

    9. Bellmore, in every other damn post on this site, you hammer on about personal responsibility endlessly. Yet here you are turning all hypocritical (not for the first time) and suddenly saying, “poor little Zimmerman! If everybody weren’t so mean to him, he wouldn’t have these problems.” It’s amazing to me how the values you yammer about constantly on this site just dissipate when they’re not convenient to you. It’s sad.

        1. You’re saying he’s personally responsible for the police being ordered to arrest him, and a new prosecutor being called in to prosecute him when the usual one rejected the case? Interesting reasoning.

    10. This is the same wife who plead guilty to perjury, right? So, she seems like a credible witness. And the perjury was committed in an effort to, like, get money (or, more accurately, hide money).

      And, according to the linked article, ‘ole Shelley declined to press charges “after consulting with her attorney.” That wouldn’t be her divorce attorney, would it?

      I wonder how big a financial concession George made in the divorce proceeding to convince her attorney to give that advice? She’s gotta be worried that George is going to get a payday out of all this and that she’s potentially cutting herself out of it via the divorce.

  4. Do you suppose our right-wing brothers will “man-up” again and band together to buy Zimmerman a belt, a club, or brass knuckles?
    What’s the best way to beat some sense into your wife?

    Perhaps our right-wing bothers should watch this first before revving up their donation machine:

    Islam: How to Beat Your Wife – YouTube

  5. Ok, let me present my reaction, and then drop this:

    Every day, young black men like Trevon Martin commit assault and murder, and the national media barely notice. Had Zimmerman not had a gun on him, had his cold dead beaten body turned up the next morning, you and I would not know his name, we would not know Martin’s name, because making everyone know them would not be politically useful in advancing any liberal cause.

    Had things turned out differently, if Zimmerman’s shot had merely produced a flesh wound, and the incident ended with Zimmerman beaten to death, and physical evidence at least making Zimmerman being the aggressor plausible, then Martin could well have gotten off based on Stand Your Ground; A lot of black guys do actually win such cases in Florida, contrary to the usual supposition here.

    In neither case would you now be doing a victory dance over the ruin of Martin’s life. Either because you’d never have heard of him, or because it would not be politically appropriate for liberals to cheer the destruction of an acquitted black man’s life.

    But it didn’t go down that way, so we heard about the man biting the dog, and here you are, dancing on the ruins of Zimmerman’s life. Disgusting, that’s all I can find to say, that’s printable at least. Disgusting.

    1. Had Zimmerman not had a gun he would have stayed in his truck, Trayvon Martin would be alive, and we would never have heard of either of them.

      That Zimmerman was acquitted (a verdict I consider correct) shows that there was not enough evidence to say that he committed a crime. It doesn’t say he behaved sensibly, or is a reasonable guy, or even that he surely didn’t commit a crime.

    2. Sad the way Limbaugh and Beck have turned republican males into whining victims. How they suffer — like no other — on their pseudo trail of tears. Oh the indignity of it! Has the great white race really fallen this low? Please Brett: Stiff upper lip and all that. This barring of your heaving, sobbing man-titties in public is edging towards being a spectacle.

    3. And every day white men like George Zimmerman rob liquor stores and rape small children, although I fail to see what that has to do with George Zimmerman; just as I don’t see what the fact that some young black men, of which Trayvon Martin was undeniably one, sometimes commit murder has to do with a young man who never did any of those things. Insofar as can be known, he never raped, robbed or murder anybody. So I’m really wondering exactly what you’re trying to say here.

      Trayvon Martin wasn’t a criminal. He wasn’t a gang member. He wasn’t a thug. He was an unarmed teenager shot to death by an angry punk with a chip on his shoulder.

        1. who he was stalking with a gun in the dark of night. Tell me you’d let someone do that to your kid, Brett.

          1. Yeah, sure, impugn Brett’s wife why doncha? If I were going to be that sort of cad, I’d stay anonymous, too.

      1. “And every day white men like George Zimmerman rob liquor stores and rape small children, although I fail to see what that has to do with George Zimmerman;”

        I think I didn’t even process Brett’s statement on the first go around because I’m not used to people actually being that blatant about it.

        He might as well have just written “I’M A GIANT RACIST!”

        1. Or I might as well have said, “I’M NOT UTTERLY OBLIVIOUS TO ACTUAL CRIME STATISTICS!!!”

          This was about race, and an effort to further a racial narrative, from the very beginning. Given the facts of the case, if Martin had been white, and Zimmerman, (More black blood than Plessy.) had been too black to call white without ridicule, you’d never have heard about the case, because the media would not have promoted it with the wrong racial polarity to advance the narrative. If not for the political cause it was supposed to advance, the police would not have eventually been ordered to arrest a neighborhood watch captain for an obvious case of self defense. If not for the political cause, they wouldn’t have brought in a new prosecutor when the normal one refused to prosecute.

          It was political and about race from the very beginning, and similar, non-useful stories get buried every day.

          And, yeah, were the colors reversed, you wouldn’t be doing a victory lap over the ruins of Zimmerman’s life, falling apart in large measure because of what people like you put him through for political reasons.

          1. “People like you?”


            There was a fight and a fatal shooting, under murky circumstances.

            1. If the races had been reversed would the Sanford police have ignored the incident? Remember, much of the initial outcry was over their behavior.
            2. Do you think fatal shootings should be subject to careful investigation by the police.
            3. Are you aware that Zimmerman’s acquittal does not elevate him to sainthood, or mean he didn’t so anything stupid or wrong?
            4. Do you think OJ killed his wife?
            5. Does Zimmerman have any responsibility, any at all, for his behavior, or is it all the fault of the Mark Kleimans of the world.
            6. Are you willing to retract the business about the bounty?
            7. Are you willing to criticize him for the bail fund business, or what that not his fault either?
            8. Are you aware that there people who spend many years in prison for things they didn’t do? Yet it’s the (largely self-inflicted) ruination of Zimmerman’s life you are worried about?
            9. Do you think Zimmerman would have acted the same if Martin had been white?

          2. “More black blood than Plessy.”

            There appear to be a great many things you do not understand about blood, beginning with what color it is.

  6. There’s an awful lot of narrative sculpting when it comes to Zimmerman, because once you stand for or against something, you can’t just be a person. The guy is seen as a victim of media manipulation by Fox viewers. Hence he has no issues with violence to women, racial hangups or anger management problems, or he couldn’t fit the victim narrative right. When you’re in fable mode rather than biography mode everything must be crisp and clean. It’s not restricted to the right either, though I think they have it worse here. Remember ‘white hispanic’, or more straightforwardly the conspiracy stuff about Zimmerman pulling that family out of their SUV after the trial.

    It’s utterly backwards when it comes to real life and fiction too. Even as we’ve collectively gotten smarter at desiring complexity and gray in fiction and TV, we’ve utterly lost all taste for it in real life. While watching the news, wife beaters can’t have the “race card” played on them, and racist vigilantes cannot help people in car accidents. Meanwhile, with popcorn in hand, ‘Crash’ is a lousy movie because it’s so hamhanded a way of saying such obvious things (as that racists can save people in car accidents).

  7. Now Mark, I’m sure you deserve better friends than that. Suggesting that you would be happy at someone else’s misbehavior and humiliation, however richly deserved.

    Did you see what her younger brother said? I was suspecting as much. In a way, it’s always the coverup that bleeps us. The inner coverup, the outer one. It never seems to end well.

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