Sunday Reads: Light one up and make sure you inhale that full bodied “respiratory presence.”

Smoking Santa...who would want to light up after a long night delivering gifts, right?

Smoking Santa…who would want to light up after a long night delivering gifts, right?

Good Morning

Journalism, is this what it has come to?

Right-Wing Publication’s Outrageous Cigarette Review Sounds Just Like Tobacco Industry Talking Points

The right-leaning  Daily Caller recently launched an outrageous editorial series by author Patrick Howley. “Cigarette Reviews for the Uninitiated: 18 Brands in 18 Weeks” reads like a parody of tobacco industry talking points, or some pundit idea of an end-of-year joke column. But on close inspection, it appears to be quite real. The expressed purpose of the series is stated clearly: “It is our hope that the research conducted herein by official TheDC cigarette critic Patrick Howley will inform and educate the public, as well as aid tobacco companies in their forthcoming product designs.”

Can you believe it?

Thanks to the Daily Caller, this advertising doesn’t always need to be paid for. Here is Howley’s surprisingly similar description of Marlboro Red.

“We were all American men, with one shared set of values and one clear international enemy” … “the full thickness of the product” … “its macho reputation” … “this moment is most satisfactory, providing a warmth and respiratory presence so lacking from other cigarettes” …. “a thick and thorough brand, to be sure, but very pedestrian in its goals.”

Please, someone tell me it is a joke.

There is something nostalgic with the phrases Howley uses, makes me think of those smoking scenes in the movie All the President’s Men.

[after seeing Carl Bernstein light up a cigarette in an elevator]
Bob Woodward: Is there any place you *don’t* smoke?

There is something about smoking a cigarette while typing away on the typewriter keys…a bit old-fashioned these days. With text messages and twitter statuses in under 140 characters, some things are becoming obsolete.  Think about it, something as simple as paper documents…which brings me to this next link I have to share with you today also touches on those newspaper men working at the Washington Post:  Noting the History of the Paper Trail

Bob Peterson/Time Life Pictures, via Getty Images

Before the digital revolution, high stacks of office documents were common. They still are.

…Lisa Gitelman, a professor of English and media studies at New York University, there’s at least one aspect of Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of top-secret Defense Department documents that scholars have failed to consider adequately: the Xerox technology that allowed him to copy them in the first place.

Actually, make that “copy and recopy.” In a chapter of her book in progress about the history of documents Ms. Gitelman describes the way Mr. Ellsberg obsessively made copies of his copies, even enlisting the help of his children in what she describes as an act of radical self-publishing.

“Even though we think of copying now as perfunctorily ripping something off, he was expressing himself by Xeroxing,” she said.

Gitelman is one of the historians of late that are practicing “paperwork studies.”

Ms. Gitelman’s argument may seem like an odd lens on familiar history. But it’s representative of an emerging body of work that might be called “paperwork studies.” True, there are not yet any dedicated journals or conferences. But in history, anthropology, literature and media studies departments and beyond, a group of loosely connected scholars are taking a fresh look at office memos, government documents and corporate records, not just for what they say but also for how they circulate and the sometimes unpredictable things they do.

There is a new book out called “The Demon of Writing” written by Ben Kafka, who has become an expert on “paperwork studies.” Be sure to read the rest of the story at that New York Times Book Review link above.

I love researching the old-fashioned way, it is an art form…at least I think so. Hours spent in libraries, sitting down on well-worn carpets, surrounded by stacks of musty books…how wonderful!

But I guess there are some advantages to technology in the classroom. High-tech classrooms in Australia reviving Aboriginal languages

In a high-school classroom in western Sydney, teacher Noeleen Lumby is asking her pupils to recall the Aboriginal name for animals that indigenous Wiradjuri people have used for hundreds of years.

As she holds up stuffed toys representing some of Australia’s native wildlife, including a kangaroo, an emu and a cockatoo, the class of about 25 — many from Vietnamese and Cambodian backgrounds — come to grips with the ancient tongue.

“I like this because you get to learn new skills and you can speak some indigenous language,” said 12-year-old Tien Nguyen.

Lumby, who oversees the students as they use their new knowledge to create projects on computers and iPads, is passionate about filling a gaping hole in Australian education — the study of Aboriginal languages.

Lumby feels it is best for students to learn Aboriginal culture as well as the language, I think it is marvelous. Lessons we should be taking note of here in this country. But then, obsolete languages along with musty books are things students today don’t appreciate. (I speak from first hand experience…both my kids are allergic to books and reading. Sad isn’t it?)

On to another article, this one is about movie making…and one of my favorite pictures that was released in 1980. From Vanity Fair: Making Blues Brothers With John Belushi and Dan Akroyd—“We Had a Budget for Cocaine” Written by Ned Zeman and Photos by Annie Leibovitz.

The pitch was simple: “John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Blues Brothers, how about it?” But the film The Blues Brothers became a nightmare for Universal Pictures, wildly off schedule and over budget, its fate hanging on the amount of cocaine Belushi consumed. From the 1973 meeting of two young comic geniuses in a Toronto bar through the careening, madcap production of John Landis’s 1980 movie, Ned Zeman chronicles the triumph of an obsession.

Enjoy that article, it is a long one.

Sigh, now I will give you some links to news stories that are trending this weekend.

BB sent me this link last night, so…another Hindu is mistaken for a muslim: Woman Is Held in Death of Man Pushed Onto Subway Tracks in Queens

Police are charging her with second-degree murder as a hate crime.

A woman has been arrested in connection to the ambush killing of two firefighters in Webster, NY. New York woman arrested in connection with murder of 2 firefighters

Frank Luntz is now a consultant for CBS News, GOP Pollster Frank Luntz: ‘I Don’t Think The NRA Is Listening’ To Americans’ Gun Violence Concerns

Latest on the cliff of doom: Congress leaders huddle in quest for ‘fiscal cliff’ compromise

India’s gang rape victim goes home:

Body of India rape victim arrives home in New Delhi

India’s ‘Two-Finger’ Test for Rape Needs to End, Experts Say

Indian women have made it to the tops of their professions in India. There’s been a female Indian president, women run multi-billion-dollar enterprises and Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress party, is the most powerful politician in the country.

But on the peripheries of big cities and rural areas of the nation, women continue to fight for equal rights – and this is reflected in how authorities treat rape victims, human-rights groups say.

Human Rights Watch, in a report released Sunday in India, points to the so-called “two-finger test” as evidence of how India had failed to take rape seriously, often blaming women’s behavior for the offense.

In the test, which appears in Indian jurisprudence textbooks and is admissible in court, a doctor inserts two fingers into a women’s vagina to determine its laxity and whether the hymen is broken, signaling previous sexual activity.

The test perpetuates stereotypes of rape survivors as loose women and often is used by defense counsels to achieve acquittals, human-rights groups say.

Awful! I have avoided writing about this horrid case of gang rape and murder.

And here is the latest news out of Newtown: Claim seeks $100 million for child survivor of Connecticut school shooting

Now, just a few video clips of people lighting one up, or in the case of this first clip…lighting two up.

While watching Now Voyager with Bette Davis last night, I thought it is fabulous, those clothes…and those eyebrows on Davis when she is the dowdy spinster aunt.

No other cigarette smoking scene in history is as fabulous as this, except for maybe this one from To Have or Have Not:

Hey, speaking of Blues Brothers, fix the cigarette lighter:

No lighter? How about striking a match like Walter Neff in Double Indemnity:

…or the way De Niro takes a long drag in the film Goodfellas…

A few other scenes are mentioned in this 2005 article from The Guardian: I smoke, therefore I am

Can you think of any good movies without smoking in them? …If you discount historical films such as Barry Lyndon or Ben-Hur, a diet of non-smoking films would be almost unwatchable. But what would be most tragically lost are the great black-and-white smoking films of the 1940s – Casablanca, Now, Voyager, The Big Sleep – where wreaths of smoke are an essential and beautiful part of the cinematography, and where smoking quite clearly stands for sex. The Big Sleep (1946) opens with a title shot of two cigarettes smouldering in an ashtray that suggests more strongly than flesh scenes ever could that Bogart and Bacall are having an affair. And we learn a lot about the intimacy between Paul Henreid and Bette Davis in Now, Voyager from his habit of lighting two cigarettes at once and handing one to her. Cigarettes in movies are about far more than just whether the characters happen to have a nicotine addiction.

A-ha, starting and finishing this post with two articles on cigarettes…Journalism, there you are!

It is the last Sunday of the year, enjoy it and let us know what you are thinking about today…


Mississippi Youths Plead Guilty to 2011 Hate Crimes

James Craig Anderson

Last summer I wrote about a “shocking hate crime” committed by 18-year-old Deryl Dedmon and some friends in Jackson, Mississippi in the early hours of June 26, 2011. At the time, I likened the crime to the murder of Medgar Evers, who had been shot and killed by a white man in Jackson, Mississippi on June 23, 1963. At the time I wrote the post, Deryl Dedmon and one other boy, John A. Rice, had been arrested, but the charges against Rice had been reduced to simple assault and he had been released.

The teenagers, who were from Brandon, Mississippi, had been partying all night; and at the instigation of Dedmon, they drove to Jackson, Mississippi in search of a black man to harrass.

In a parking lot on the western side of town they found their victim.

James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker, was standing in a parking lot, near his car. The teens allegedly beat Anderson repeatedly, yelled racial epithets, including “White Power!” according to witnesses.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith says a group of the teens then climbed into their large Ford F250 green pickup truck, floored the gas, and drove the truck right over Anderson, killing him instantly.

A video camera captured the attack and subsequent murder, making the arrests possible.

Last October, CNN published an in-depth report on the case based on interviews with Brandon residents who knew the boys.

Parents and students who knew Dedmon tell CNN it was widely known that he expressed a hatred for blacks, white people who had black friends, and anyone he thought was gay. And they say he had a history of harassing teens at his high school.

CNN has learned that Department of Justice investigators have uncovered two other possible incidents where groups of white Rankin County teens, including Dedmon, have sought out and attacked a black person.

Dedmon and his friends bullied another local boy because he had black friends.

Jordan Richardson, 17, says he was bullied, beaten and harassed by Dedmon and his friends two years ago, partly because he had black friends.

“He had a look of no conscience,” Jordan said about Dedmon. “When we would get into our altercations … there was never any show of emotion or anything — anything. Deryl always, I think, just carried around this backpack of hatred.”

After numerous run-ins at school, Jordan’s father called police after a particularly violent confrontation, and the police separated the boys.

“It was very tough on my son,” said Brian Richardson, a pastor in Brandon. “Because he knew – and I had told Jordan for a year and a half, that Deryl Dedmon will kill you.”

Brian Richardson said that Dedmon and the gang of boys he hung out with constantly used the “n” word and were known to be violent. A friend of his son Jordan had also been harrassed by Dedmon.

Nevertheless, police and school officials claimed that had seen “no warning signs” and that Anderson’s murder was “an isolated incident.”

CNN learned that

Shortly after he allegedly drove the truck over Anderson, Dedmon boasted and laughed about the killing, according to testimony given by some of the teens to detectives.

“I ran that nigger over,” Dedmon allegedly said in a phone conversation to the teens in the other car. He repeated the racial language in subsequent conversations, according to the law enforcement officials.

“He was not remorseful, he was laughing, laughing about the killing,” said [District Attorney Robert Shuler] Smith.

Deryl Dedmon

Yesterday, Dedmon and two other young men, Dylan Butler, and John A. Rice pleaded guilty to in the murder of James Anderson.

In a series of court hearings orchestrated by state and federal prosecutors, Deryl Dedmon, 19, and his friends John A. Rice, 18, and Dylan Butler, 20, were charged in the morning in United States District Court in Jackson with one count each of conspiracy and one of violating Mr. Anderson’s civil rights. They pleaded guilty in the afternoon.

They face up to five years for the conspiracy charge and up to life for the hate-crime violations….On Wednesday, Mr. Dedmon admitted in state court that he drove his truck over Mr. Anderson, 47, in a motel parking lot just before dawn last June 26. He was sentenced to two life sentences without a chance for parole.

The murder, whose race-based implications were slow to surface, shot to national prominence when surveillance video surfaced. In it, Mr. Anderson could be seen stumbling and then being struck by a Ford F-250 with Mr. Dedmon at the wheel.

The newly revealed state-federal case against the young men showed that Dedmon and several of his friends had been regularly targeting vulnerable black people in Jackson for months.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves set sentencing for June 8 and ordered all three to be held in custody. The three are from the town of Brandon, a Jackson suburb, and were accused of going to the majority-black capital city on numerous occasions to harass or assault black people.

Prosecutor Sheldon Beer read the allegations against the three, saying they harassed or assaulted black people who they thought were homeless or intoxicated. Victims were chosen because they thought they would not tell police, authorities said….

Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division, said: “This is really a case about a group of racist thugs who made a sport of targeting vulnerable African Americans in Jackson and attacking them without provocation simply because of the color of their skin.”

“On a number of occasions they drove around Jackson looking for African Americans to assault,” Perez said during a news conference after the hearing. “Jackson is a wonderful community, however, for these defendants they referred to Jackson as `Jafrica.’ African Americans in Jackson were subhuman to them.”

On June 26, before the murder,

Rice and Butler and others stalled Anderson until Dedmon arrived, according to allegations read in court. When Dedmon arrived, Rice punched Anderson and knocked him down. Dedmon straddled the man and beat him.

Four other people were present at the attack on Anderson. The FBI is still investigating the case, but won’t say if there will be more charged filed in the future.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Dedmon had pleaded guilty to state capital murder charges and received two life sentences. He is eligible for the death penalty, but Anderson’s family are against capital punishment, and they asked that Dedmon’s life be spared.

“We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder,” the letter states; the letter is signed by Barbara Anderson Young, James Craig Anderson’s sister who is in charge of, and speaks for, his estate….

“Our opposition to the death penalty is deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James’ life as well,” the letter states. But the family goes on to explain that there is another reason for their opposition, one that is tied to Mississippi’s racial past.

“We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites,” the letter states. “Executing James’ killers will not help to balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment.” [....]

“Those responsible for James’ death not only ended the life of a talented and wonderful man. They also caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. But our loss will not be lessened by the state taking the life of another,” it says.

Huffington Post reports some of what was said in court by the victim’s sister, the young murderer, and Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill Sr.

Barbara Anderson:

“My brother Craig would give you the shirt off of his back. Because of my brother, James Craig Anderson, our lives were richer, with love, respect and a love of God,” she said. “We, the Anderson family, are praying for racial reconciliation not just in Mississippi but all over this land and country. We are praying for the defendant, Dedmon, and his family that they find peace.”

Daryl Dedmon:

“I am sincerely sorry. I do take full responsibility for my actions on that night. I pray for y’all’s family every day … and that God will soften your hearts to forgive me,” Dedmon said….

“I was young. I was dumb. I was ignorant … I was not raised the way that I acted that night. I was raised in a godly house. As I stand before you today, I am a changed man. I am a godly man. God has showed me to see no colors. God showed me that we are all made in the image of God so we are all based on the same thing … I do not ask y’all to forget, but I do ask y’all to forgive.”

Judge Weill:

“Your prejudice has brought shame upon you and placed a great stain on the state of Mississippi. Whatever excuse you may offer for what you have done, forget that. There’s no excuse that you can offer for the family of Mr. Anderson or to your fellow Mississippians who have to try to reconcile the horrible damage you have caused,” Weill said.

Weill recalled the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers who were murdered and buried in an earthen dam in a rural area in what became known as “Mississippi Burning.”

“All the hard work we have done to move our state forward from that earthen dam in Neshoba County to here has been stained by you. A stain that will take years to fade,” the judge said.

I find it hard to believe that Dedmon didn’t learn some of that racial hatred at home, but of course I can’t know for sure. I only hope that other potential Deryl Dedmon’s as well as potential vigilantes like George Zimmerman are paying attention to this tragic case.


Tuesday Reads: Romney Gets Women’s Health Questions in IL, Santorum Talks Brokered Convention, Manning and Tebow, and the Trayvon Martin Murder

Good Morning!!

Today is the Illinois primary, so I have a few links for you about that–even though I’m sure you’re as sick of reading about Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as I am.

According to CNN, Romney leads Santorum by double digits as of last night.

The Caucus Blog (NYT): Before Illinois Primary, Santorum Talks of Brokered Convention

Mr. Santorum remains insistent that he and the other Republican challengers are in a position to deny Mr. Romney the 1,144 delegates he needs to claim the party’s nomination. In an appearance on CBS’s “Early Show,” Mr. Santorum said Mr. Romney could not win.

“The convention will nominate a conservative,” Mr. Santorum said. “They will not nominate the establishment moderate candidate from Massachusetts. When we nominate moderates, when we nominate a Tweedledum versus Tweedledee, we don’t win elections.”

Asked about the odds of a brokered convention, Mr. Santorum said, “Obviously, they are increasing.”

Washington Post: On eve of Illinois primary, Mitt Romney faces tough questions about women’s issues

PEORIA, Ill. — Mitt Romney wanted to talk about the economy, but Bradley University had other ideas.

The Republican presidential front-runner faced tough questions about his opposition to Planned Parenthood and mandatory birth control coverage as he met with students Monday night.

CNN (with video): Romney can’t escape birth control questions in Illinois

After Romney riffed for about 20 minutes on President Barack Obama’s management of the economy, he solicited questions from the large student-heavy audience.

As the first questioner made apparent, these voters were not pre-screened.

“So you’re all for like, yay, freedom, and all this stuff,” said the first woman to approach a microphone. “And yay, like pursuit of happiness. You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”

….

“You know, let me tell you, no no, look, look let me tell you something,” he said, waiting for the crowd noise died down. “If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for? Vote for the other guy, that’s what he’s all about, okay? That’s not, that’s not what I’m about.”

Romney also told the students that he would end government funding for Planned Parenthood and he didn’t know or care where women could go for health care after he ends the funding. What a guy.

Washington Post Politics: Romney, Santorum each claim conservative mantle before Illinois primary

On the eve of the hotly contested Illinois primary, each of the leading Republican presidential candidates drew inspiration from touchstones of conservatism on Monday and offered himself as the standard-bearer for the right’s fight against President Obama.

Mitt Romney traveled to the urban campus where Obama once taught constitutional law to lecture the president on the principle of economic freedom, paying homage to the University of Chicago’s legacy as the intellectual center of free-market economics.

A hundred miles west in Dixon, Rick Santorum tried to channel the spirit and vision of Ronald Reagan during a stop in the former president’s boyhood hometown, hoping to give his insurgent campaign a last-minute infusion of energy.

As they journeyed across Illinois, Romney and Santorum each cast himself as the rightful heir to Reagan’s conservative mantle…

As we’ve all noted previously, if Ronald Reagan ran today, he wouldn’t be nominated. He wasn’t anywhere near as far right as today’s Republicans.

In sports news, the Peyton Manning sweepstakes is over. Manning is going to the Denver Broncos, and Xtian fundamentalist weirdo Tim Tebow may be traded.

Unfortunately, Jim Clayton of ESPN started a rumor that the New England Patriots might want Tebow. I don’t know if I could take that. I don’t really think Tebow’s super-pious act would go over that well in Foxborough. I haven’t seen any of the Patriots players kneeling down and praising Jesus before games and after scoring. Ugh!

Dakinikat and I both wrote about the Trayvon Martin case yesterday, and I have a few more links on that.

First, Connie posted a link to this very informative Mother Jones article yesterday: The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained. If you haven’t heard the 911 calls, the audio from all of them is posted in the piece. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” which gives very broad interpretations to “self-defense” is explained in the MJ article. Here’s a bit of it:

In 1987, then-Gov. Bob Martinez (R) signed Florida’s concealed-carry provision into law, which “liberalized the restrictions that previously hindered the citizens of Florida from obtaining concealed weapons permits,” according to one legal analyst. This trendsetting “shall-issue” statute triggered a wave of gun-carry laws in other states. (Critics said at the time that Florida would become “Dodge City.”) Permit holders are also exempted from the mandatory state waiting period on handgun purchases.

Even though felons and other violent offenders are barred from getting a weapons permit, a 2007 investigation by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found that licenses had been mistakenly issued to 1,400 felons and hundreds more applicants with warrants, domestic abuse injunctions, or gun violations. (More than 410,000 Floridians have been issued concealed weapons permits.) Since then, Florida also passed a law permitting residents to keep guns in their cars at work, against employers’ wishes. The state also nearly allowed guns on college campuses last year, until an influential Republican lawmaker fought the bill after his close friend’s daughter was killed by an AK-47 brandished at a Florida State University fraternity party.

Florida also makes it easy to plead self-defense in a killing. Under then-Gov. Jeb Bush, the state in 2005 passed a broad “stand your ground” law, which allows Florida residents to use deadly force against a threat without attempting to back down from the situation. (More stringent self-defense laws state that gun owners have “a duty to retreat” before resorting to killing.)

The Florida courts have upheld the law and issued some truly shocking findings.

This has led to some stunning verdicts in the state. In Tallahassee in 2008, two rival gangs engaged in a neighborhood shootout, and a 15-year-old African American male was killed in the crossfire. The three defendants all either were acquitted or had their cases dismissed, because the defense successfully argued they were defending themselves under the “stand your ground” law. The state attorney in Tallahassee, Willie Meggs, was beside himself. “Basically this law has put us in the posture that our citizens can go out into the streets and have a gun fight and the dead person is buried and the survivor of the gun fight is immune from prosecution,” he said at the time.

One of those defendants ended up receiving a conviction for attempted voluntary manslaughter for an unrelated case, in which he shot indiscriminately at two people in a car.

The only hope Trayvon Martin’s family may have is for the U.S. Justice Department to step in and investigate the shooting as a hate crime. And I just saw the news breaking on Twitter that the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have opened an investigation into the Trayvon Martin case.

Here are a couple of articles about the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law and its impact on the courts.

Miami Herald: Florida’s self-defense law could hamper efforts to prosecute Trayvon Martin shooter

Slate: Why Trayvon Martin’s Killer Remains Free: “Florida’s self-defense laws have left Florida safe for no one—except those who shoot first.”

Boy am I glad Massachusetts has tough gun laws! Florida college students held a rally yesterday in Sanford, FL, the Orlando suburb where the shooting took place.

College students around Florida are rallying Monday to demand the arrest of a neighborhood watch captain who fatally shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

Students rallied in front of the Seminole County criminal courts building in Sanford – the central Florida city where the shooting occurred – and on the campus of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

In the courts building is the State Attorney’s Office, where prosecutors will review the case and decide whether to file criminal charges against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Martin on Feb. 26.

Demonstrators are demanding the arrest of the 28-year-old Zimmerman, who authorities say shot the teenager during a confrontation in a gated community. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense; Florida law allows a person to use deadly force if the person believes he or she is facing a deadly threat.

The problem is that Zimmerman actually pursued Martin and had the boy pinned face down on the ground when he pulled the trigger. He wasn’t “standing his ground.” He initiated a confrontation with a boy who weighed 140 pounds, nearly 100 pounds less than Zimmerman.

Just a couple more links.

Al Sharpton at HuffPo announcing his rally in Sanford on Thursday.

On Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m., National Action Network (NAN) and I will convene an urgent rally at the First Shiloh Baptist Church in Sanford, FL. to demand justice for Trayvon Martin. We will be joined by community leaders and concerned citizens from all ethnicities, backgrounds and walks of life that cannot even begin to comprehend this nightmarish situation. A young teenager walking home, armed only with candy and a drink, should never lose his/her life because someone in a gated community feels ‘threatened.’ George Zimmerman, the accused adult shooter, is roaming the earth freely while Trayvon’s mother, father and family members must bury their precious child. It is an atrocious miscarriage of justice, and we demand that authorities in Florida arrest Zimmerman immediately and charge him for the crime of murder. Anyone with sound reasoning cannot disagree.

Sharpton goes on to discuss the “Stand Your Ground Laws” and why they shouldn’t apply to what Zimmerman did. To me, the 911 calls are evidence that Zimmerman was the aggressor. At least five individuals saw the altercation and heard Trayvon’s screams for help while George Zimmerman lay on top of him.

At the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates pulls a quote from the Miami Herald story I linked earlier:

“We are taking a beating over this,” said [Bill] Lee, who defends the investigation. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”

Bill Lee is the Sanford police chief who let George Zimmerman go free without even taking a drug and alcohol text. He thinks Trayvon should have done things differently. What does that mean? That it was wrong for this boy to go to the corner store for some candy and a bottle of iced tea? There’s more about Zimmerman’s attitudes at the link.

I’ll end with this: What bothers me most is that Trayvon’s body was taken to the morgue as an unidentified person. The body was held there for three days, supposedly because the boy had no ID. But I learned last night that Trayvon had his cell phone with him. The boy’s father was calling the cell phone, and there certainly should have been a way to identify the boy from that phone. Why couldn’t they call the last number called? Why didn’t the police go door to door in the neighborhood and try to find out who the boy was? Surely that alone is evidence of profiling. The assumption was that the boy didn’t come from that neighborhood.

That’s it for me for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Saturday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

Wonk the Vote is taking care of some personal business today, so I’m filling in for her. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of exciting political news at the moment, so I’ve got a bit of a potpourri of links for you.

The most bizarre story out there right now is that Jason Russell, one of the founders of “Invisible Children,” an organization that recently released a video on Joseph Kony that went viral on the internet, has been hospitalized after an apparent breakdown.

Jason Russell, 33, was allegedly found masturbating in public, vandalizing cars and possibly under the influence of something, according to the SDPD. He was detained at the intersection of Ingraham Street and Riviera Road.

An SDPD spokesperson said the man detained was acting very strange, some may say bizarre….

Police said they received several calls Thursday at 11:30 a.m. of a man in various stages of undress, running through traffic and screaming.

Police recognized that Russell needed medical treatment, and he wasn’t put under arrest. ABC News has more detail on the incident. It sounds pretty bad.

Russell was allegedly walking around an intersection wearing “speedo-like underwear.” He then removed the underwear and made sexual gestures, sources told TMZ, which posted video of a publicly naked man purported to be Russell.

Several bystanders held Russell down until police arrived, ABC’s San Diego affiliate reported.

San Diego police spokesperson Lt. Andra Brown told NBC San Diego that Russell was “screaming, yelling, acting irrationally.” He was running into the roadway and interfering with traffic, although there were “no reports of actual collisions.” Bystanders reported he was in “various stage of undress,” although by the time police arrived, he had his “underwear back on.”

Invisible children is saying that Russell was hospitalized for exhaustion and malnutrition.

To be honest, I haven’t watched the video, because my sister saw it and told me it was very emotionally manipulative. She told me that in the film, Russell talks frankly to his son about Kony’s violent crimes in a way that sounded like child abuse to me. Plus, like many groups who are active in African countries, Invisible Children seems to be run by right wing Xtians. So I avoided seeing the film don’t know much about it. I’d be interested in the opinions of anyone who has seen the film.

I did find some background in The Guardian UK:

Invisible Children has shot to fame in recent weeks after one of the videos that it produces in order to publicise the atrocities of Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army went viral. Viewed more than 76m times, the video gave a high profile to the group’s cause, but also put the tiny charity at the centre of global scrutiny.

Critics have condemned the group for a perceived lack of transparency in its financial records and for over-simplifying a complex issue. They accused the group of being fame-seeking and of having an overtly western focus on what is a regional African problem. Some also pointed out the group had taken large donations from rightwing Christian fundamentalists groups in the US, who have also funded anti gay-rights causes.

However, the group and its many defenders mounted a strong defence, detailing its financial history and saying that their sole aim was to highlight a dreadful and ongoing human rights cause that had garnered little attention for decades. They were also hailed for using social media to engage young people in social activism.

Yesterday a jury in New Jersey Dharun Ravi guilty a hate crime for spying on roommate at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi and posting videos on the internet of Clementi and an older male in sexual encounters. Three days later, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

A former Rutgers University student was convicted on Friday on all 15 charges he had faced for using a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man, a verdict poised to broaden the definition of hate crimes in an era when laws have not kept up with evolving technology.

“It’s a watershed moment, because it says youth is not immunity,” said Marcellus A. McRae, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice.

The student, Dharun Ravi, had sent out Twitter and text messages encouraging others to watch…. The case set off a debate about whether hate-crime statutes are the best way to deal with bullying. While Mr. Ravi was not charged with Mr. Clementi’s death, some legal experts argued that he was being punished for it, and that this would result only in ruining another young life. They, along with Mr. Ravi’s lawyers, had argued that the case was criminalizing simple boorish behavior.

I for one am very pleased with the verdict. Ravi’s behavior went way beyond bullying, IMO. I’m sick of seeing young people driven to suicide by behaviors that are characterized as “bullying” because they’re been carried out by young people in school. If adults acted in the same ways, their behaviors would be seen as harassment, stalking, and even outright violence.

Last night George Clooney was arrested in DC along with several legislators for protesting outside the Sudanese embassy.

A group of U.S. lawmakers and film star George Clooney were arrested at Sudan’s embassy in Washington on Friday in a protest at which activists accused Khartoum of blocking humanitarian aid from reaching a volatile border region where hundreds of thousands of people may be short of food.

Protest organizers said those arrested included U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Al Green of Texas, Jim Moran of Virginia and John Olver of Massachusetts – all Democrats. Organizers said Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Martin Luther King III, the son of the slain U.S. civil rights hero, also were arrested.

Clooney, his father Nick and the other anti-Sudan activists ignored three police warnings to leave the embassy grounds and were led away in plastic handcuffs to a waiting van by uniformed members of the Secret Service, a Reuters journalist covering the demonstration said.

I was glad to see that some members of the Massachusetts delegation were involved.

The suspect in the Afghan mass murders has been identified.

The military on Friday identified the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers earlier this week as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a 38-year-old father of two who had been injured twice in combat over the course of four deployments and had, his lawyer said, an exemplary military record.

Bales’ name was kept secret for several days because of

concerns about his and his family’s security.

An official said on Friday that Sergeant Bales was being transferred from Kuwait to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., home of the Army’s maximum security prison. His wife and children were moved from their home in Lake Tapps, Wash., east of Tacoma, onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord, his home base, earlier this week….

Little more than the outlines of Sergeant Bales’s life are publicly known. His family lived in Lake Tapps, a community about 20 miles northeast of his Army post. NBC reported that he was from Ohio, and he may have lived there until he joined the Army at 27.

Bales enlisted right after 9/11 and has had four combat deployments. It’s hard to understand how that could be permitted, especially after he suffered a traumatic brain injury. The story notes that the day before the shootings, Bales had seen a fellow soldier lose his leg.

CNN reports that Bales family said he did not want to go to Afghanistan after he had already served three combat deployments, lost part of his foot, and suffered the TBI.

“He was told that he was not going to be redeployed,” [Bales' attorney John Henry] Browne said. “The family was counting on him not being redeployed. I think it would be fair to say he and the family were not happy that he was going back.”

Browne painted a picture of a decorated, career soldier who joined the military after the 2001 terrorist attacks and had spent his Army life at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington. Browne called him a devoted husband and father to his two young children who never made any derogatory remarks about Muslims or Afghans.

I’ve got a few political links for you. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is making news again. Naturally it relates to the war on women. He says the Republican presidential candidates “mishandled the recent debate over women’s health and contraception.”

In an interview with Reuters, he voiced misgivings about how the Republican presidential candidates have framed issues, especially the recent debate over women’s health and contraception.

The Obama administration’s recent decision to require religious institutions such as Catholic-run hospitals to offer insurance plans that cover birth control for women, which his administration later modified under pressure from critics, was “a radical expansion of federal power,” Daniels said….

“Where I wish my teammates had done better and where they mishandled it is … I thought they should have played it as a huge intrusion on freedom,” Daniels said.

Instead, he said they got dragged into a debate about women’s right to contraception, an issue which was settled 40 years ago.

Daniels said they should have framed the argument as one about government intrusion on personal liberty. He said the Obama rule was like saying that because Yoga is healthy, the government should require it.

Excuse me? What about the “intrusion” on women’s “freedom?” And what a stupid analogy. The government isn’t requiring anyone to use birth control. Why won’t Mitch just ride away on his Harley Sportster and leave us alone?

Of course not a day goes by without Mitt Romney saying something idiotic. Yesterday, right after his plane landed in Puerto Rico, Romney attacked Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.

The justice, nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, is beloved by local Democrats and Republicans as the high court’s first member of Puerto Rican descent.

“In looking at Justice Sotomayor, my view was her philosophy is quite different than my own and that’s the reason why I would not support her as a justice for the Supreme Court,” Romney told reporters Friday afternoon, just minutes after his plane touched down in San Juan. “I would be happy to have a justice of Puerto Rican descent or a Puerto Rican individual on the Supreme Court, but they would have to share my philosophy, that comes first.”

The issue puts Romney at odds with a majority of local voters and his most prominent Puerto Rican supporter, Gov. Luis Fortuno, standing at Romney’s side as the former governor or Massachusetts made his remarks. It also underscores the challenges facing Republican candidates as they bring popular conservative rhetoric to an area packed with Hispanic voters ahead of Sunday’s GOP president primary.

And, as if that wasn’t enough of an insult, Romney then followed the poor example of his opponent Rick Santorum and lectured the locals about making English their official language.

Romney and his rival Rick Santorum have supported the conservative push to formalize English as the official language across the country. On Puerto Rico, an American territory that will vote on its political status, including statehood, on Nov. 6, most residents speak Spanish as their primary language.

Santorum made headlines earlier in the week after saying that Puerto Rico would have to adopt English as its main language to attain statehood, a dominant political issue here.

Can you believe the nerve of these guys? I’ll end on a humorous note–another story mocking Mitt Romney. You know how I love to mock my former governor. It seems that in 2006, Romney

declared September “Responsible Dog Ownership Month” in the state.

Eleven dogs and 35 humans gathered at the State House for an event celebrating the governor’s proclamation on Sept. 21 of that year, according to a contemporaneous newsletter from the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners.

“We have a pervasive problem because of people who don’t act as responsible dog owners,” Jennifer Callahan, then a Democratic member of the state legislature, said at the time, citing the hundreds of thousands of dogs that wind up in shelters every year.

ROFLOL! The Seamus on top of the car story didn’t appear in The Boston Globe until 2007.

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Reads

Morning Muffin with Coffee Cup, by Delilah Smith

Good Morning!!

Today is the big day for Mitt Romney. Will he win the primary in Michigan, where he was born and raised? Or will Rick Santorum beat him with a little help from Democrats? Daily Kos has been advocating for Democrats to cross over and vote for Santorum in order to extend the Republican primary race, and today it was revealed that a Michigan man had engineered and e-mail and robocall campaign to push the idea. From CNN:

Michigan Democratic strategist Joe DiSano has taken it upon himself to become a leading mischief maker.

DiSano says he targeted nearly 50,000 Democratic voters in Michigan through email and a robo call to their homes, asking them to go to the polls Tuesday to vote for Rick Santorum in attempt to hurt Romney.

“Democrats can get in there and cause havoc for Romney all the way to the Republican convention,” DiSano told CNN.

“If we can help set that fire in Michigan, we have a responsibility to do so,” he said.

The Santorum camapaign apparently picked up on the idea too, according Talking Points Memo:

Rick Santorum’s campaign is locked in a tight battle with Mitt Romney ahead of Tuesday’s Michigan primary. On Monday his camp started openly courting a demographic that’s not often reached out to in GOP primaries: Democrats.

Michigan’s primary rules allow Dems to vote in the state’s GOP primaries. The liberal site DailyKos and other progressive partners have been trying to drum up enthusiasm for “Operation Hilarity” – an effort to get Democrats to vote in the GOP primary and tilt the vote against Mitt Romney. The Santorum campaign evidently decided they’d take votes from any legitimate source.

Following some speculation that the robocall may have been a “false flag” effort designed to harm Santorum, a spokesman Hogan Gidley confirmed to TPM that they were indeed footing the bill, and reaching beyond party lines. “If we can get the Reagan Democrats in the primary, we can get them in the general,” he told TPM.

Nate Silver’s forecast for the Michigan primary: Romney’s Lead Looks More Tenuous.

Since we ran the Michigan numbers early Monday morning, three new polls are out that make the state look more like a true toss-up and less like one that favors Mr. Romney.

Two of the surveys, from Mitchell Research and American Research Group, in fact give Rick Santorum a nominal lead in Michigan, by 2 and 1 percentage points respectively. The third, from Rasmussen Reports, gives Mr. Romney a 2-point advantage.

We also added a hard-to-track down survey from Baydoun Consulting, which gave Mr. Romney an 8-point advantage. However, it is less recent than the others, having been conducted on Thursday night rather than over the weekend.

Among the five polls that were conducted over the weekend — including those that had been included with the previous update — three give Mr. Romney a small lead while two show an edge for Mr. Santorum.

Late last night, another poll came out from PPP Polling that suggests the momentum in Michigan has switched back to Santorum.

PPP’s final poll in Michigan finds Rick Santorum holding on to the smallest of leads with 38% to 37% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Ron Paul, and 9% for Newt Gingrich.

It’s always good to be cautious with one night poll numbers, but momentum seems to be swinging in Santorum’s direction. Romney led with those interviewed on Sunday, but Santorum has a 39-34 advantage with folks polled on Monday. The best sign that things have gone back toward Santorum might be that with those polled today who hadn’t already voted, Santorum’s advantage was 41-31.

Much has been made of Democratic efforts to turn out the vote for Santorum and we see evidence that’s actually happening. Romney leads with actual Republican voters, 43-38. But Santorum’s up 47-10 with Democratic voters, and even though they’re only 8% of the likely electorate that’s enough to put him over the top. The big question now is whether those folks will actually bother to show up and vote tomorrow.

They do note that Romney already has a big lead with the people who voted early (18% of the electorate). We’ll be live blogging the results of the primaries in Michigan and Arizona later tonight. Romney is expected to win easily in Arizona.

The forgotten candidate Newt Gingrich made some news today with a mean-spirited statement about Afghanistan.

”We’re not going to fix Afghanistan,” the former House speaker said. “It’s not possible.”

His prescription:”What you have to do is say, ‘You know, you’re going to have to figure out how to live your own miserable life… Because you clearly don’t want to learn from me how to be unmiserable.’”

Gee, I wonder if all those bombs killing civilians–including children–might have something to do with Afghans being unhappy? That’s in addition to U.S. soldiers burning Korans–whether inadvertent or not–and urinating on bodies of insurgents.
Think Progress reports that Darrell Issa has finally admitted that his no-women-allowed contraception hearing wasn’t “my greatest success.”

Eight days after getting roundly-chastised for holding an all-male anti-contraception, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) admitted on Friday that the episode did not go as well as he expected.

“I won’t call it my greatest success to get a point across on behalf of the American people,” said the six-term congressman.

He still doesn’t concede that he’s incorrect about the Obama administration’s conception rule violating the First Amendment.

The White House is supporting a Canadian company’s decision to begin building part of the Keystone XL pipeline.

TransCanada announced Monday that it plans to begin building the southern part of the pipeline, which would ship crude oil from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf of Mexico.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama “welcomes” the news that the Canadian pipeline company is moving ahead with its plans, despite the fact that the administration halted work on the cross-border portion of Keystone through 2013 — a move that sparked outcry among congressional Republicans — until TransCanada works out a new route through Nebraska that avoids ecologically sensitive areas.

“As the President made clear in January, we support the company’s interest in proceeding with this project, which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production,” Carney said in a statement.

We haven’t talked about this much lately, but the trial of Tyler Clementi’s roommate Dharun Ravi has begun in New Jersey. Clementi was the Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his roommate filmed him with a gay lover and streamed the video on the internet. Ravi is charged with invasion of privacy and a hate crime, “bias intimidation.” From the New York Times:

The trial of Dharun Ravi promises to turn less on what happened between him and Tyler Clementi in September 2010 — there is general agreement about most of the events — than on why. The most serious charge against Mr. Ravi is bias intimidation, carrying a potential 10-year prison sentence, which raises crucial questions about whether he had been motivated by antigay bias and whether Mr. Clementi had felt intimidated or had believed that his roommate was mistreating him because of his sexual orientation.

Seventeen months after Mr. Clementi, an 18-year-old from Ridgewood, jumped from the George Washington Bridge, the case still commands national interest, attested to by a crowd of journalists who were packed into a courtroom here or were watching on monitors in adjoining rooms. The case has been used by the news media, politicians and interest groups to illustrate themes that include the abuse of gay youths, teenage suicide, cyberbullying and the loss of privacy in the Internet age, and it prompted New Jersey lawmakers to adopt one of the nation’s toughest civil antibullying laws.

Mr. Ravi, who was also 18 at the time, knew that his roommate was gay and had another man with him in their dorm room, and used the webcam in his computer to watch the encounter from a friend’s room. He posted on Twitter about seeing Mr. Clementi “making out with a dude,” and two days later posted that it would be happening again and invited others to see. But Mr. Clementi, knowing that he had been spied on, turned off the computer to block another spying episode.

“It was not an accident, not a mistake,” Julia McClure, the first assistant prosecutor for Middlesex County, told the jury in her opening statement. “Those acts were meant to cross one of the most sacred boundaries of human privacy — engaging in private sexual human activity.” She said Mr. Ravi’s actions “were planned to expose Tyler Clementi’s sexual orientation, and they were planned to expose Tyler Clementi’s private sexual activity.”

Yesterday Molly Wei, the friend from whose room Ravi spied on Clementi, testified for the prosecution.

“First of all, it was shocking. It felt wrong. We didn’t expect to see that. And now that what we did, it was like we shouldn’t have seen it,” Molly Wei said told jurors. “We didn’t want people to know what had happened.”

But within minutes, she testified, she and defendant Dharun Ravi were online chatting with friends about seeing two men kissing. And within the hour, Wei said, she agreed to show a few seconds of the video stream to four other women who visited her dorm room.

Still, she said, Ravi did not intend to humiliate his roommate.

Yeah, right.

She said that she invited Ravi, whom she had known since middle school, to her dorm room for a snack a few minutes after 9 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2010. When Ravi tried to go back, she said, Clementi told him that he wanted the cramped dorm room to himself for a few hours. So Ravi returned.

Within a few minutes, she said, he used her computer to view live images from his webcam. It was then, she said, that she saw about two seconds of Clementi and an older man kissing.

Even though she said they initially agreed not to talk about what they had seen, she asked Ravi to tell a friend about it during an online chat that began at 9:20 p.m. And within minutes, word got around the dorm.

She said she agreed to turn the webcam back on at the request of a woman who was among a group dropped by her room.

“It was the exact same image, except that they had taken their tops off,” she said. “As soon as they saw it, I turned it off.”

Wei was allowed to make a deal in which she agreed to perform community service and see a psychologist.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?