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?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Wow.  I almost feel human this morning!  I spent the last few days with a terrible flu.  First, I couldn’t get warm, then I couldn’t cool down.  My joints and muscles hurt like crazy.  I also had congestion and stuffiness everywhere possible.  I gave up on trying to accomplish anything on Friday and just took to bed.  Watching TV was too much effort even!   Hope you can avoid whatever that was because it made me miserable.

There is one bit of new news.  Huntsman is quitting the GOP race for President. 

Jon M. Huntsman Jr. informed his advisers on Sunday that he intends to drop out of the Republican presidential race, ending his candidacy a week before he had hoped to revive his campaign in the South Carolina primary.

Mr. Huntsman, who had struggled to live up to the soaring expectations of his candidacy, made plans to make an announcement as early as Monday. He had been set to participate in an evening debate in Myrtle Beach.

It looks like I missed a lot of theatrical politics for the benefit of the American Taliban this weekend.  I did enjoy hearing about the Broncos-Pats games.  The Saints outcome was gut and heart wrenching.  Tewbow’s endzone piety leads to a good question, imho.  Can’t we have at least one area of our lives where we don’t have to be subjected to endless shows of self-righteousness?  Do football players really have to wear hairshirts on the field?  We certainly would take see many folks take issue with football players insisting on prayer rugs and bowing to Mecca down there on the field.  Wouldn’t people fight the idea that we stop playing games on Friday night so Jewish football players don’t disrespect the Sabbath?  This is getting worse than those nasty Mel Gibson movies.

Sports used to be a refuge from the division and hatred which permeates the media nowadays. Not anymore. This all began in 2010 when Tebow and his mother starred in a controversial pro-life commercial sponsored by FOTF during the Super Bowl aired by CBS. What made it so controversial is that CBS had already turned down ads from left-leaning organizations like PETA and MoveOn.org. There was no room for their message on Super Sunday, but just like last night CBS has no problem airing evangelical right wing messages.

Of course the reason the FOTF commercial was aired in the first place was because Tebow was playing in the game. The Tebowization of the NFL will continue in this year’s Super Bowl as Randall Terry (Who is running as a conservative Democrat challenging President Obama) plans to air a gruesome commercial featuring aborted fetuses. The Right has found their savior in Tebow and the NFL, which is obviously willing to turn Denver Bronco games into Christian recruiting lovefests.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that Tim Tebow is a nice guy. However when you make the decision to wear your religion on your sleeve, you are pushing your beliefs on people who do not want to hear or see them, especially during an NFL playoff game. I don’t begrudge anyone their own personal beliefs. When you push them and use your position as an NFL player as a platform to foist them on the public, that’s out of bounds. Tebow also energizes the evangelicals who see him as a vessel to push their political agenda. (Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have already co-opted the Tebow mystique.)

Thanks to CBS and Tebow’s followers, we are headed down a slippery slope. Would it be too much to ask that sports be declared a no-religion zone?

You just can’t get away from the sanctimonious these days. Our local ABC affiliate has now picked up the slogan “God Bless Louisiana”. They’ve got it festooned on billboards and TV.  Why this sudden urge to play Pharisee every where I look?  I refuse to watch the entire line up now on that station.  It’s like an assault.  Sorry ABC.  I don’t care what you run.  I’m not watching until you tell your affiliate to put a sock in it.

I couldn’t even watch TV news this weekend with out enduring the Christian Taliban Hate Fest down there in Texas.  We’re fricking infested with these pests!  Somebody grab the Constitution and swat them please!  At least, remove take tax exempt status away from these guys so they have less money to throw around!

Right now, there’s a somewhat frantic effort among some on the Christian right to corral their movement behind Santorum, who has already proved to be the favorite of evangelicals in Iowa. Many religious right figures are still haunted by their failure in 2008 to rally to Mike Huckabee, which they feel enabled the victory of John McCain, who they distrusted even more than they do Mitt Romney.

On Saturday, more than 150 leading religious conservatives gathered in Brenham, Texas, to see if they could agree, this time, to coalesce behind a single candidate. Perry was eliminated on the first ballot. By the third, when some attendees had already left, Santorum won the group’s imprimatur with 85 votes, compared to 29 for Gingrich. In a conference call about the results, Tony Perkins, head of The Family Research Council, said we could expect fundraising drives and other sorts of activism on Santorum’s behalf from the group’s participants.

Gloria Hein, one of my prayer breakfast tablemates, said the Texas group’s Santorum endorsement made her more likely to vote for him. “I’ve been rooting for Santorum, but I thought he didn’t stand a chance,” she said. “I think that’s a great encouragement that they’re behind him. I’m getting chills right now!”

Maybe she’s just got the flu that I had.

So, today is MLK day.  It seems we have a long way to go on all fronts of civil rights.  The current discussion over FLOTUS is just one example. Women get the bitch and anger labels whenever they have strong opinions.  The usual suspects lined up to point fingers.

The political downsides for both of the Obamas are clear enough. In using the words she did, she risked reactivating an entire narrative that had surrounded her in 2008. This idea that she was in some nebulous way radical and less-than-fully American had been a corrosive one, buttressed most powerfully by her now-infamous campaign trail statement that “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country.”

That image was one that it took a great deal of time and work to undo — beginning, perhaps, with her ostentatiously patriotic address to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and continuing with her signature White House initiatives on the most uncontentious of issues: childhood obesity and the welfare of military families.

Last week’s remarks opened the door for ideological opponents of Obama to argue that she was up to her old antics. They needed no second invitation to march through it.

“She comes from a very angry, black nationalist background,” David Webb, a conservative radio talk show host and Tea Party activist who is himself African-American, told The Hill.

In Webb’s view, Obama had emerged from a family of modest means, had been afforded “enormous opportunities” and had gone on to the crowning heights of the White House. Given her official role, he said, she ought to realize that “you have to couch your views, because you’re representing the nation.”

Webb added that the danger in Obama’s remarks was their capacity to turn off even the ideologically uncommitted.

“It’s un-American,” he said, referring to her raising of racial issues. “The majority of Americans do not like that approach, this underhand way of doing things.”

So, here’s a great story from The Christian Science Monitor that highlights 8 peaceful protests that usheredin civil rights laws.  One of the most effective was the Montgomery Bus Boycott that

Rosa Parks and Doctor Martin Luther King

lasted a year.

The protest began, on Dec. 1, 1955, after African-American Rosa Parkswas arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. The next day, Dr. King proposed a citywide boycott of public transportation at a church meeting.

The boycott proved to be effective, causing the transit system to run a huge deficit. After all, Montgomery’s black residents not only were the principal boycotters, but also the bulk of the transit system’s paying customers. The situation became so tense that members of the White Citizens’ Council, a group that opposed racial integration, firebombed King’s house.

In June 1956, a federal court found that the laws in Alabama and Montgomery requiring segregated buses were unconstitutional. However, an appeal kept segregation intact until Dec. 20, 1956, when the US Supreme Court upheld the district court’s ruling. The boycott’s official end signaled one of the civil rights movement’s first victories and made King one of its central figures.

This made me think about the gender-segregated buses in Israel.   I think the US should refuse to fund any country that allows this kind of thing. Here’s a link to the New Israel Fund that is committed to democracy, justice and equality for all Israles.  It’s hard to believe a modern democracy could do this to women, isn’t it?

  • Israel’s High Court of Justice has given Transport Minister Israel Katz (Likud) until December 27 (update: the deadline has been extended) to present his position on gender- segregated bus lines. The order followed a report by a special committee set up by the Ministry of Transport, which ruled that these bus lines are illegal because they humiliate and discriminate against women passengers.
  • The Ministry of Transport committee was set up following a petition in 2007 by veteran New Israel Fund grantee Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) for Progressive Judaism (Reform) and novelist Naomi Ragen against the gender-segregated bus lines. The court ordered the committee to consider, rule on and regulate the matter.
  • More than ten years ago, the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community asked Israel’s public bus company, Egged, to provide segregated busses in their neighborhoods.  By early 2009 more than 55 such lines were operating around Israel.  Typically, women are required to enter through the bus back doors and sit in the back of the bus, as well as “dress modestly.”
  • Some buses operate in or through mixed neighborhoods and are the only buses running on particular routes.  In Jerusalem, the segregated buses actually charge lower fares than ordinary Egged busses.  Women who refuse to sit in the back of the bus are frequently threatened verbally and physically by haredi men who “enforce” the segregation system.
  • In October, the special Ministry of Transport committee recommended a year-long trial in which men and women could choose to enter the buses by separate doors and sit separately, but stressed that all seating on public buses must be voluntarily and no coercion must be used. The committee further stressed that there is no separate, publicly-run bus system for haredi communities, and every member of the public has the right to use buses in accordance with basic human rights and the principle of equality.
  • Many Israelis fear that the right-wing governing coalition, which includes all but one of the major religious parties, will pressure the Minister into rejecting the committee report and supporting the continuation of segregated and discriminatory public transportation.

It seems that a lot of countries are having problems with their fundamentalist religious sects who are demanding that discriminatory, hateful, and unreasonable practices be enacted.   Our country must respect the right of each individuation to practice their beliefs, but our laws, civil rights, and culture should not be skewed to bow down to these narrow beliefs.

Happy MLK Day!  I can hear the parade going down Claiborne as it goes through the Ninth Ward to Down Town.  Let’s remember the dignity of no person should be limited due to the narrow views of any religion.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Pat Robertson Calls SNL Sketch “Anti-Christian Bigotry”

Yesterday Tom Brady and the New England Patriots crushed Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos 41-23 at Mile High Stadium. Denver had won its six previous games. Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow wears his “Christian” faith on his sleeve. In fact he appeared in an anti-abortion ad for Focus on the Family in the 2010 Superbowl.

In a piece in Esquire, Tom Junod calls Tebow a “religious figure” who seems to be winning games because of his faith rather than his athletic skills.

Tim Tebow does not — and, for now, cannot — complete 60 percent of his passes. He’s strong, so he can shot-put and corkscrew the ball all over the field, but he often looks like he’s throwing the ball away when he’s not, and he avoids interceptions by coming nowhere near his intended receiver. It would be tempting to say that none of this matters to the legions he has inspired, but of course it’s all that matters: Because Tim Tebow is a religious figure rather than an athletic one, the limitations of his talent wind up testifying to the potency of his faith. The fact that he’ll be almost comically inept for three quarters and then catch an updraft of mastery in the fourth serves to demonstrate not that he’s a winner but that Jesus is — and, above all, that Christianity works.

So why did the Broncos lose yesterday? The most recent SNL presented a skit in which Jesus himself provided the answer.

See? Christianity works! Devilish Brady and Belichick won because Jesus was otherwise occupied. But “The Rev.” Pat Robertson was outraged by the “anti-Christian bigotry” demonstrated by the SNL skit.

On the latest episode of The 700 Club, the televangelist thought the segment was brought on by “an anti-Christian bigotry that’s disgusting.”

“If this had been a Muslim country and they had done that, and had Muhammad doing that stuff, you would have found bombs being thrown off, and bodies on the street,” he said. “We need more religious faith in our society, we’re losing our moral compass in our nation.”

Robertson went on to praise Tebow for his faith.

“I think he is a wonderful human being,” he said. “And this man has been placed in a unique position and I applaud him, God bless him.”