Lazy Saturday Reads

cherry blossoms dc

Happy Saturday!!

The cherry blossoms have reached their peak in Washington DC, just in time for today’s Cherry Blossom Parade, scheduled for 10AM-12PM today. WaPo:

The blossoms reached peak Thursday and should still be putting on a good show this weekend. Because of the variability of weather, they aren’t always this near peak at parade time.

The parade proceeds west along Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th streets.

Further south, in Augusta GA, the azaleas are in full bloom just in time for the Masters Tournament, which is going into its third day despite the loss of Tiger Woods to back surgery this year and Phil Mickelson’s failure to make the cut. Left-hander Bubba Watson was leading the pack by 3 strokes as of last night.

Masters azaleas

From the Augusta Chronicle: Bubba Watson storms to 3-stroke lead.

Bubba Watson never led during the first three rounds of the 2012 Masters Tournament but rallied on the final day and won in sudden death. The former Georgia Bulldog is on top now, halfway through the 78th Masters, with some breathing room.

Watson, 35, ripped apart the second nine at Augusta National Golf Club on Friday with five consecutive birdies en route to 4-under-par 68 – which included bogey on No. 18 – to build a three-shot lead over John Senden, of Australia. It matched the largest 36-hole lead since 2006.

Senden, who qualified for the Masters on March 16, when he won the Valspar Championship, also had a second-round 68 and is alone in second place.

Australian and defending champion Adam Scott made a spirited comeback to stay within shouting distance of Watson. Scott, who opened with 69, was 3-over after five holes Friday but played his final seven in 3-under, finishing with 72, tied for third place, four behind Watson.

Tiger’s absence has hit ESPN hard: ESPN’s Masters ratings plummet without Tiger Woods.

There was a feeling around the Masters that the absence of Tiger Woods might not hurt as much as expected. With Tiger having ceded some of the spotlight to younger golfers in recent years, the sport was healthy enough to survive without him in Augusta.

Television viewers apparently had a different opinion.

ESPN’s first-round telecast was down 800,000 viewers from last year to a record low of 2 million. That’s the lowest Thursday viewership in the seven years the network has been broadcasting the Masters.

Forsythia at Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain MA

Forsythia at Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain MA

Okay, I know it’s unlikely that anyone else here cares about professional golf; I just wanted an excuse to post some pretty photos of spring flowers.

Up here in southern New England we’re just beginning to see a little yellow showing up on the forsythia bushes, but it’s going to be warm for the next few days, and soon Arnold Arboretum will showing off acres of yellow blossoms like those in the photo to the right. And it won’t be long before our cherry trees and azaleas are in bloom too!

Spring has sprung!

Can you tell I’m trying to avoid the news?

In a little over a week, Boston will host its big spring event, the Boston Marathon, and between now and then we’ll be hearing endless talk about what happened here last year.

I’d like to avoid all the coverage, but I’ve decided instead to try to pay close attention to the coverage in corporate and alternative media and notice how the powers that be attempt to shape the narrative of last year’s dramatic events as well as the public process of dealing with them.

Yesterday, Boston NPR station WBUR had a very good discussion of Unanswered Questions Around The Marathon Bombing on the local program Radio Boston. It’s worth a listen.

I was quite surprised that one of the participants, Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone Magazine brought up the fact that nearly every breaking story on the events of last year came from CBS’ John Miller, who was obviously the designated target for FBI leaks. And Reitman was actually permitted to discuss this issue at some length.

JohnMiller-300x225

Miller began working for CBS in 2011; before that he worked for the Federal Government as “Associate Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analytic Transformation and Technology”; and before that he was “Assistant Director for Public Affairs for the FBI.”

Currently he is working with his old friend Bill Bratton as “Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence” for the NYPD. Is this guy a journalist or is he a tool of law enforcement? He did work for ABC News in the 1990s. As such, he got an interview with Osama bin Laden in 1998. I wonder how that happened?

Here’s a piece about Miller in Men’s Journal from March 2013–shortly before last year’s Boston Marathon.

John Miller’s office at CBS News is filled with keepsakes from his two lives as top cop and leading reporter: badges from his tours with the New York and Los Angeles police departments; a photograph from his 1998 interview with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan; his FBI badge and ID; even an LAPD Beach Patrol cap. (“The one job I never got,” Miller jokes.) “When I was covering the cops, I wasn’t one of those guys who showed up to work everyday saying ‘I’ve gotta find the scandal in the police department,'” says Miller. “And when I was with the police department, I didn’t hate the press for doing its job, either. Which I think has made it easier to toggle back and forth.”

But is avoiding anti-cop stories really the best attitude for a “journalist?” And how can such a journalist be expected to critically analyze leaks handed to him by law enforcement sources? I think the answers to those questions are obvious. And yet Miller basically shaped the news narrative on last year’s Boston Marathon bombings.

Last night NBC aired an hour-long program on the Boston attack: 108 Hours: Inside the Hunt for the Boston Marathon Bombers, hosted by Brian Williams. It was interesting for me to watch the video of the events that took place in Watertown as police hunted for the accused bombers; but of course no hard questions were asked. Everything law enforcement officials had to say was taken at face value.

One tidbit I learned was that President Obama had been on the phone with Governor Patrick during the lockdown of much of the city, and Obama had expressed concerns about the notion of government officials shutting down a major American city. I found that fascinating considering that critics on both the left and right have portrayed Obama as a tyrant who was probably in control of those kinds of decisions.

The news event that I’ve really been avoiding is the deadly bus accident in California.

I find it so painful to read or hear about children being hurt that I generally avoid such stories, but today I feel I have to cover the terrible bus crash in California. You may recall that we had a terrible bus accident in Boston just about a year ago. In fact there have been bus crashes all over the country. What’s going on?

Despite new regulations mandating seat belts on recently built tour buses, passengers are still losing their lives in crashes.

A crash Thursday in Northern California killed 10 people and injured 34 when a tour bus carrying Los Angeles-area students collided with a FedEx truck. Eerily, the crash occurred almost exactly one year from the date of a tour bus crash in Irving that killed three people and injured dozens of senior citizens.

The history of serious crashes involving tour buses or motor coaches stretches back into the 1950s and highlights a pattern of danger that federal regulations have just begun to attempt to mitigate.

Congress wrapped bus safety improvements, including a provision for seat belts in recently built tour buses, into a larger transportation bill which was signed into law in 2012. Those regulations, however, only apply to buses produced in 2007 or later. The regulations do not order buses built before 2007 to be retrofit with safety belts.

The industry opposes requiring that existing buses be retrofitted with seat belts saying the seats are not designed for them and may not be strong enough to withstand the repeated pulling of straps. Retrofitting is also more expensive than adding belts to new buses.

Read more at the link. The story references numerous other articles about bus accidents.

Reuters on the latest incident: Investigators focus on cause of deadly California crash

Investigators were focusing on Saturday on what caused a FedEx tractor-trailer to collide with a bus in a fiery crash in northern California that killed 10 people, five of them teenage students en route to a college recruitment event.

It remained unclear whether the FedEx driver was somehow distracted or lost consciousness, or whether a mechanical failure occurred when his truck swerved across the median of Interstate 5 and slammed head-on into the motor coach full of students from the Los Angeles area on Thursday.

The California Highway Patrol also raised the possibility that a separate collision on the truck’s side of the highway might have been a factor in Thursday evening’s fatal crash.

According to early highway patrol accounts of the accident, the truck side-swiped a car after crossing the center divider but before hitting the bus. Two witnesses, Bonnie and Joe Duran, who were reported to be in the clipped car, told California media outlets that the truck was on fire before the collision. “I was heading along in the outside lane and I looked over and saw the FedEx truck coming straight for me and he was in flames already,” Bonnie Duran told a local CBS-affiliate.

More at the link.

I have a few more interesting reads for you today that I’ll just list briefly.

I highly recommend reading this op-ed at the WaPo by former SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens: The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment. It’s an excerpt from his new book Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. 

See also Scott Lemieux’s review of Stevens’ book at The American Prospect: How John Paul Stevens Would Amend the Constitution.

Here’s a brief but encouraging story by WBUR (NPR)  about the three women running for governor of three New England states: Women’s Groups Target New England Gubernatorial Races.

I really liked this thoughtful post about the internet, privacy, and the NSA leak story at Haft of the Spear blog: You Were Promised Neither Security Nor Privacy.

Don’t miss this troubling story at the WaPo: Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with the military’s special operations. Can we all agree that the FBI (and CIA) are a lot scarier than NSA metadata storage?

Those are my offerings for today. What stories have you been following? Please share your links in the comment thread and have a nice Spring weekend!


Tuesday Reads: The Poor Pitiful Press Corps

Meret Oppenheim fur lined tea cup

Good Morning!!

Yesterday Politico published one of their bizarre pieces about the trials and tribulations of the whiny Village media. According to Dylan Byers, the White House press corps experienced ‘Extreme frustration’ over ‘having absolutely no access’ to Obama during his brief golfing vacation over the long Presidents’ Day weekend.

Ed Henry, the Fox News correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association, released a statement Sunday evening in which he said the press corps had been given no access to the president, who was joined on his outing by star golfer Tiger Woods, and that the WHCA would fight for greater transparency in the days ahead.

“Speaking on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend,” Henry said in a statement, relayed in a White House pool report. “There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency.”

Has Ed Henry ever complained about the White House press not getting access to information about drone strikes? Has he released any statements about the White House not being “transparent” about the DOJ defending Bush’s torture policies or involvement by the administration in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz?

Ed Henry with Kim Kardashian

Ed Henry with Kim Kardashian

No, it’s only when the press corps sees an opportunity for star-fucking. Obama goes golfing with Tiger Woods and wants a little privacy–probably requested by Woods–and the press corps goes nuts over lack of “transparency.” Here’s the White House response to the kerfluffle:

“The press access granted by the White House today is entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings,” Earnest said. “It’s also consistent with the press access promised to the White House Press Corps prior to arrival in Florida on Friday evening.”

Excuse me if I don’t see this as a major issue. But for Politico, it’s earth-shaking. This morning they’ve posted another of their “Behind the Curtain” exposes by Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen, and, as usual, it’s hilarious. Get this–the headline is “Obama, the puppet master.”

President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.

Not for the reason that conservatives suspect: namely, that a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated. Instead, the mastery mostly flows from a White House that has taken old tricks for shaping coverage (staged leaks, friendly interviews) and put them on steroids using new ones (social media, content creation, precision targeting). And it’s an equal opportunity strategy: Media across the ideological spectrum are left scrambling for access.

No, this is not a gag post from the Onion. Vandehei and Allen are deadly serious about what they see as a scandalous situation. They are horrified to report that the Obama administration likes to use new technologies like e-mail and social media to communicate with the American people instead of just letting the DC media filter their message for them.

The results are transformational. With more technology, and fewer resources at many media companies, the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government. This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House — fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press — has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly. And future presidents from both parties will undoubtedly copy and expand on this approach.

OMG! Scandalous!! And that’s just the beginning of a four-page article. Because this isn’t just about an outing with Tiger Woods. Oh no! It’s a vital national security isssue . . . or something. Turning to another related piece at Politico–this is obviously the issue of the week for them–Ed Henry says “This isn’t about a golf game.”

White House Correspondents Association president Ed Henry is standing by his complaints about the lack of press access to President Obama, pushing back against critics who say he and his fellow White House correspondents are just “whining” and don’t respect the president’s privacy.

“This is a fight for more access, period,” Henry told POLITICO late Monday night. “I’ve heard all kinds of critics saying the White House press corps is whining about a golf game and violating the president’s privacy. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“We’re not interested in violating the president’s privacy. He’s entitled to vacations like everyone else. All we’re asking for is a brief exception, quick access, a quick photo-op on the 18th green,” Henry continued. “It’s not about golf — it’s about transparency and access in a broader sense.”

Sure, Ed. Back to the “Behind the Headlines” piece:

“The way the president’s availability to the press has shrunk in the last two years is a disgrace,” said ABC News White House reporter Ann Compton, who has covered every president back to Gerald R. Ford. “The president’s day-to-day policy development — on immigration, on guns — is almost totally opaque to the reporters trying to do a responsible job of covering it. There are no readouts from big meetings he has with people from the outside, and many of them aren’t even on his schedule. This is different from every president I covered. This White House goes to extreme lengths to keep the press away.”

So why doesn’t the press complain during and after those big meetings then? And then there’s this:

“White House handout photos used to be reserved for historically important events — 9/11, or deliberations about war,” Kraft said. “This White House regularly releases [day-in-the-life] images of the president … a nice picture of the president looking pensive … from events that could have been covered by the press pool. But I don’t blame the White House for doing it, because networks and newspapers use them. So the White House has built its own content distribution network.”

Armstrong Williams

Were any of these people around when the Bush administration was actually paying writers and pundits like Armstrong Williams to get their version of events into the media? From the NYT, January 29, 2005:

The Bush administration acknowledged on Friday that it had paid a third conservative commentator, and at least two departments said they were conducting internal inquiries to see if other journalists were under government contract. The investigative arm of Congress also formally began an inquiry of its own.

The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed having hired Michael McManus, who writes a weekly syndicated column and is director of a nonprofit group called Marriage Savers. Mr. McManus was paid $10,000 to help train counselors about marriage, an arrangement first reported in USA Today, but officials said he was paid for his expertise rather than to write columns supporting administration policies.

At the same time, the Government Accountability Office told the Education Department it was investigating a $240,000 contract with the commentator Armstrong Williams that came to light earlier this month, requesting that education officials turn over any paper or video materials related to the case. Another conservative writer, Maggie Gallagher, admitted earlier this week having a $21,500 deal with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Besieged with questions about contracts with outside public relations firms and columnists, officials at the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services said they were conducting their own inquiries…

Judith Miller, Dick Cheney puppet

Judith Miller, Dick Cheney puppet

Not to mention the supposedly legitimate reporters like Judy Miller who helped Bush/Cheney get us into the war in Iraq with the willing assistance of their editors and publishers. Here James C. Moore at Salon, from May 27, 2004:

When the full history of the Iraq war is written, one of its most scandalous chapters will be about how American journalists, in particular those at the New York Times, so easily allowed themselves to be manipulated by both dubious sources and untrustworthy White House officials into running stories that misled the nation about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. The Times finally acknowledged its grave errors in an extraordinary and lengthy editors note published Wednesday. The editors wrote:

“We have found … instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been … In some cases, the information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge … We consider the story of Iraq’s weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.”

The editors conceded what intelligence sources had told me and numerous other reporters: that Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi was feeding bad information to journalists and the White House and had set up a situation with Iraqi exiles where all of the influential institutions were shouting into the same garbage can, hearing the same echo. “Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations — in particular, this one.”

The reporter on many of the flawed stories at issue was Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and authority on the Middle East. The Times, insisting that the problem did not lie with any individual journalist, did not mention her name. The paper was presumably trying to take the high road by defending its reporter, but the omission seems peculiar. While her editors must share a large portion of the blame, the pieces ran under Miller’s byline. It was Miller who clearly placed far too much credence in unreliable sources, and then credulously used dubious administration officials to confirm what she was told.

That’s hardly ancient history, is it?

Here are a couple of good reactions to the Politico articles, while we wait for Charles Pierce to write about how he could barely keep himself from gargling anti-freeze this morning.

Annie Laurie at Balloon Juice:

Eight years of accusing the Clintons of every possible crime, up to and including large-scale drug running and multiple murders, followed by eight years of dutifully promulgating whatever bullshit and phantasms the Cheney Regency invented, and the Very Serious Media is shocked, shocked that President Obama would rather “spend way more time talking directly to voters via friendly shows and media personalities”. Or that “Obama’s aides are better at using technology and exploiting the president’s ‘brand.’… [T]hey are obsessed with taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and every other social media forums, not just for campaigns, but governing.”

Digby at Hullabloo:

The good news is that the Villagers don’t waste a lot of time and energy worrying about transparency when it comes to trivial information that is only interesting to gossip columnists. For instance, nobody’s issuing any ultimatums over silly issues like this:

For a country exhausted after more than a decade of war, remote-controlled drones—unmanned machines that deliver swift death to terrorists—are undeniably tempting. President Obama has ordered hundreds of strikes on “high-value,” as well as medium- and low-value, targets in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The administration says these killings have decimated al-Qaeda’s top ranks and done significant damage to the Taliban but refuses to say much more. Obama has yet to explain the basics of the broader policy: how decisions are made to send drones across sovereign borders; how officials determine a target is dangerous enough to merit assassination; what oversight is in place; and what is done to limit civilian casualties

I’m awfully relieved that the fourth estate has its priorities straight.

So…that should get you started on your morning’s reading. I’ll have some links on other topics in the comments section. Now, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads

It’s Saturday morning and our country is once again saddened by a horrible, violent crime. The shootings in Colorado yesterday were tragic. Even more tragic is the fact that mass shootings have become almost commonplace in our country, but none of our so-called leaders respond by actually taking action to prevent more such massacres in the future.

I feel heartsick not only for all of the victims and their families but also for the family of the perpetrator. I can’t begin to imagine how horrible it would be to lose a family member so senselessly or to have a family member commit such a horrific crime. If only this time politicians would stand up to the bloodthirsty NRA, but I know it’s not going to happen.

I’m not going to link to any more articles about yesterday’s murders. I just can’t stand to read about it right now. So let’s see what else is happening.

Chris Cilizza asks “Who had the worst week in Washington? Rep. Michele Bachmann.”

Anytime you are compared to former senator Joseph McCarthy — he of “red scare” infamy — it’s probably not very good for your political career.

That’s the situation Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) found herself in this past week after it came to light that she and four other House Republicans had sent letters to the inspectors general of the departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice, asking them to look into whether the Muslim Brotherhood has tentacles within the U.S. government.

Bachmann focused her attack on Human Abedin, long-time friend and aide to Hillary Clinton and wife of former Rep. Anthony Weiner. She also slimed fellow Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison.

In an interview with radio host Glenn Beck on Thursday, Bachmann asserted that Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has a long record of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a subsequent interview Thursday night with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he has no ties to the Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Islamic movement that recently came to power in Egypt and that some say maintains ties to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

Bachmann offered no evidence of ties between Ellison and the Muslim Brotherhood during the Beck interview. Bachmann’s spokesman, Dan Kotman, cited a 2009 Fox News report that Ellison had a trip paid for by the Muslim American Society, a group described by an expert quoted in that report as “the de facto arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S.”

It’s simply beyond me why anyone would support this woman or vote for her, yet she is one of the top fund-raisers in the House of Representatives.

I watched some of the British Open today. Please don’t get mad at me. I can’t help rooting for Tiger Woods. I find it so hard to resist a comeback story, and Woods has slowly been recovering his pre-scandal form.

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — From the time he arrived in northwest England on Sunday, it was clear Tiger Woods had a game plan for Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

He had fond memories of the place, having been low amateur here in 1996 and calling it one of his favorite courses on the Open Championship rota. He enjoyed the challenge of avoiding the numerous pitfalls of the old links. Without saying so, he appeared determined to put an end to his four-year major championship victory drought.

Part of the plan was to stay out of the numerous bunkers that give Royal Lytham its teeth. The wind was down and the course was soft, but getting into those hazards is, well, hazardous.

It obviously wasn’t part of the plan when Woods’ approach to the par-4 18th found a greenside bunker. His caddie, Joe LaCava, said the shot was one of his best of the day. But the wind played a factor, the ball drifted into the sand and … uh-oh.

Then Woods holed the shot for a birdie.

A thunderous roar echoed around the 18th green as Woods gave a fist pump. He had made his statement at the Open Championship.

The tournament continues through the weekend, and I’ll probably watch a little more of it. The scenery relaxes me if nothing else.

I’ll just give you two Mitt Romney links this morning. First, this column by conservative political handicapper Charlie Cook from early in the week: Red Alert.

The strategic decision by the Romney campaign not to define him personally—not to inoculate him from inevitable attacks—seems a perverse one. Given his campaign’s ample financial resources, the decision not to run biographical or testimonial ads, in effect to do nothing to establish him as a three-dimensional person, has left him open to the inevitable attacks for his work at Bain Capital, on outsourcing, and on his investments. It’s all rather inexplicable. Aside from a single spot aired in the spring by the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, not one personal positive ad has been aired on Romney’s behalf. The view that any day or dollar spent on talking about anything other than the economy is a waste has been taken to such an extreme that Romney has no positive definition other than that of being a rich, successful, and presumably smart businessman. People see and feel the reasons for firing Obama every day in the economic statistics and the struggle that so many Americans face daily. The Romney campaign seems focused on reinforcing a message that hardly needs reinforcing, while ignoring a clear and immediate danger to its own candidate’s electability.

The attacks on Bain, outsourcing, and his investments are sticking to Romney like Velcro, and it’s hard to see how that will change until he picks his running mate. Romney has lost control of the debate and the dialogue. Instead of voters focusing on the economy, they are now hearing about investments and accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, as well as about outsourcing and layoffs….if I were a Republican, I would be very concerned about the events of the past two weeks, questioning both strategy and tactics as well as the underlying assumptions that have led to the campaign decisions made so far.

Second, check out this slideshow of photos of “Sad Mitt Romney” at Mother Jones. In number 8, he looks like he’s about to cry–maybe because of mean bully Obama’s attacks on his “success.”

Sorry–I threw in another link there, but you don’t have to click on it.

Here’s a knee-slapper from Raw Story: Top tea partier demands Obama prove he doesn’t smoke crack and have gay sex

The president of Tea Party Nation declared on Thursday that if Mitt Romney is to release his tax returns, President Barack Obama should release medical records to prove he’s not a drug addict who smoked crack and had gay sex with a lifelong con-man.

Judson Phillips, whose for-profit group is better known to Tennessee as the “Tea Party Nation Corporation,” explained in an essay that also went out in a mass email to his followers that the American people must know whether the president had secret financial support in college due to his status as a “foreign student” — and dredged up a long-disproved story of Obama’s alleged encounter smoking crack and having sex with a gay prostitute.

At The Nation, Ari Melber reports:

A new campaign calling for “a woman moderator” for the presidential debates has drawn over 115,000 supporters online, through the social action website Change.org, and the Commission on Presidential Debates is taking notice. Janet Brown, the commission’s executive director, told The Nation she knew of the petition’s popularity and her colleagues “welcome” the input “regarding moderator selection.”

The petition, which was started by three high school students in New Jersey, Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegeland and Elena Tsemberis, casts the paucity of female moderators as an issue of equality. “We were shocked to find out that it has been twenty years since a woman last moderated a presidential debate,” the petition notes, in reference to the 1992 debate led by ABC News’s Carole Simpson. The students started the effort in conjunction with their civics class, and it is now “the largest elections-related petition” on Change.org, according to Michael Jones, the site’s deputy campaign director. A related effort on UltraViolet.org, a new organizing platform for women’s rights, has drawn another 50,000 supporters.

Now that is something I’d like to see–as long as the moderator isn’t Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer.

I’m sure you’ve heard that George Zimmerman has “gone rogue” again. He has again set up his on website talking to the media and generally appears to be ignoring his attorney’s advice. You’ll recall that he did that with his previous attorneys and they resigned from his case in a nationally televised news conference. On JJ’s Thursday night post, Northwestrain linked to an interesting wordpress blog called the Frederick Leatherman Law Blog. It’s run by an attorney who has been commenting on the Trayvon Martin case. I found his latest post fascinating. He thinks Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, should resign.

GZ is the quintessential difficult client. He is paranoid, secretive, fearful, angry, stubborn, doesn’t trust anyone, controlling, believes he’s smarter than anyone else, manipulative, and probably delusional. It’s absolutely clear that he does not feel any emotional distress or regret for having killed TM.

His claim that TM died as part of “God’s Plan” exhibits a frightening dissociation from reality and a willingness to kill without any sense of responsibility or regret, if he deems it necessary to do so. In other words, if he should find himself in another situation where he believes he is cornered and needs to kill someone to save face or save his ass, I believe he’s likely to do so and excuse what he did as just carrying out God’s will.

I think he is a danger to himself or others and he belongs in a secure mental health facility or a jail. He needs a thorough mental health evaluation.

I fear that Mark O’Mara is a potential victim and I am concerned about his safety. He’s clearly lost control of GZ despite his protestations to the contrary. GZ clearly sees O’Mara in the way and O’Mara has to be very careful how he handles the “uncharted waters” (his words) in which he finds himself.

If he pushes too hard in an effort to regain control, assuming he ever had control, things could get ugly.

I couldn’t agree more. I think O’Mara is destroying his reputation because he craves the media attention that goes along with this case. But Zimmerman is obviously a very sick man with almost no ability to control his impulses. O’Mara should cut and run.

Finally, have you heard that Elizabeth Warren may be asked to give the keynote speech at the Democratic Convention? Steve Kornacki writes:

Early in the week, NBC News and the New York Post reported that Chris Christie would be the Republicans’ featured speaker at their Tampa convention. Mitt Romney’s campaign has refused to confirm the report, though, and Christie himself was mum on the subject when questioned on Thursday. Also on Thursday, the Boston Globe reported that an Obama campaign official had confirmed that Elizabeth Warren was a candidate to deliver the Democratic keynote speech in Charlotte.

There’s no guarantee they’ll be chosen, but Christie and Warren are unusually obvious and logical candidates for the slots. Both have exploded onto the national scene during the Obama presidency by articulating their parties’ basic message and values with more charisma and precision than anyone else – including, arguably, their parties’ nominees.

That would be quite a contrast!

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?