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 Houston 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?


Roommate Charged with Hate Crime in Tyler Clementi Case

Tyler Clementi was a "promising violinist."

Here’s some positive news for those of us who are deeply concerned about the toxic effects of bullying on young people.

A former Rutgers University freshman was indicted Wednesday for secretly viewing a same-sex encounter involving his roommate – who later jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

Dharun Ravi, 19, of Plainsboro, N.J., could face up to 5 years in prison if convicted of the top charges in the 15-count indictment announced by Middlesex County prosecutor Bruce Kaplan.

Ravi was charged by a grand jury with bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and witness and evidence tampering for using a webcam to spy on Tyler Clementi’s dorm room date with another man.

It was demonstrated to the Grand Jury that Ravi knew of Clementi’s sexual orientation and deliberately planned to publicly humiliate him. Ravi twice activated a webcam in the room and tried to stream Tyler’s romantic encounters on the internet. After the suicide, Ravi made significant efforts to cover up his behavior and asked friends to cover for him. Ravi’s co-conspiritor Molly Wei had previously been charged with invasion of privacy, along with Ravi, but Wei was not indicted by the Grand Jury. It’s possible that she cooperated with investigators.

Prosecutors have said that Ravi used Wei’s computer in her dorm room to activate a webcam on a computer in his room to view and stream Clementi’s encounter. Prosecutors said Ravi tried the same thing during a second encounter Sept. 21, the day before Clementi’s suicide.

Ravi posted a message on his now-closed Twitter account on Sept. 19 that read: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Two days later, he wrote on Twitter: “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again.”

Tyler’s parents, who knew of his sexual orientation, said through their attorney:

“The grand jury indictment spells out cold and calculated acts against our son, Tyler, by his former college roommate,” Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joe Clementi, said in a statement. “If these facts are true, as they appear to be, then it is important for our criminal justice system to establish clear accountability under the law.”

They also said that they hope to start a foundation in their Tyler’s name. Their goal would be to heighten public “awareness about bullying, privacy rights, and the Internet.”