Tuesday Reads: Wisconsin Recall, Willard on the Defensive, SCOTUS, Another School Shooting, and Trayvon Martin Updates

Tea and Scones, by Kristine Diehl

Good Morning!!

Today is the Wisconsin primary, but there isn’t much suspense. It looks like Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee, even though no one really likes him. I guess Romney wants the job so bad, he doesn’t care that that he’s basically a laughing stock. [UPDATE: Maryland and the District of Columbia also hold their primaries today.]

Yesterday, Romney was asked some uncomfortable questions at a Town Hall meeting in Howard, Wisconsin. One man, a Ron Paul supporter, asked Romney whether he agreed with Mormon Church scriptures that say interracial marriage is sinful. Romney became visibly upset.

The questioner, Bret Hatch, 28, a local supporter of Rep. Ron Paul’s, read from typed notes as he asked Romney whether he agreed with a verse from Moses 7:8 from the “Pearl of Great Price.” As he began citing the verse, Romney interrupted: “I’m sorry, we’re just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view. But if you have a question, I’ll be happy to answer your question.”

Hatch asked his question. “If you become president,” he asked, “do you believe it’s a sin for a white man to marry and procreate with a black?”

“No,” Romney said. “Next question.”

Then another person asked Romney “about his ability to connect to average Americans.” Romney then cited his experience as a church leader in the Boston area.

“That gave me the occasion to work with people on a very personal basis that were dealing with unemployment, with marital difficulties, with health difficulties of their own and with their kids,”

He then claimed that he is running for President because he wants to help people like that.

The big excitement in Wisconsin isn’t about the primary, but about the recall of Governor Scott Walker.

For Wisconsinites, the most important political news of the season came Friday, when the state’s Government Accountability Board announced that the effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker had amassed enough valid signatures to force an election June 5. It will be the first such election in state history, and if Wisconsin votes out Walker, he will be only the third sitting governor in U.S. history to be recalled, joining North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier in 1921 and California’s Gray Davis in 2003.

The precipitating event was Walker’s quick move, upon taking office, to reward the 1 percent with a tax cut while asking the 99 percent to sacrifice. He didn’t campaign on his antipathy for public unions. Yet within his first few weeks as governor, Walker declared war on public-sector workers (except for police and firefighters, many of whom supported his candidacy), cutting benefits, limiting pay increases and sharply curtailing collective bargaining rights, even after the unions agreed to many of his demands.

Minx wrote about the horrible SCOTUS decision that came out yesterday, but I wanted to give you a little background on the case they heard. This decision is shocking, IMO.

Albert Florence, his wife and little boy were on their way to his parents’ home in 2005, when they were pulled over by a state trooper. Mrs. Florence was at the wheel, but the trooper’s roadside state records check showed a seven-year-old outstanding arrest warrant for Albert Florence for failing to pay a fine. Florence said he had paid the fine, and pulled out a receipt, which he kept in the car. But the trooper said there was nothing he could do. Florence was handcuffed and taken to the local county jail.

The state would later admit it had failed to properly purge the arrest warrant, but at the time of the arrest, the error turned into a “nightmare,” Florence said. He was held in jail for seven days and strip-searched twice.

Florence said the experience “petrified” and “humiliated” him. Upon entering the jail, he was ordered to take a delousing shower, then inspected by a guard who was about “an arm’s distance” away and instructed Florence to squat, cough and lift up his genitals.

If that isn’t an unreasonable search, I don’t know what would be. But five “conservative” justices think it’s just fine for law enforcement officials to strip search people even for minor offenses. This will surely have the effect of frightening people away from being involved in peaceful political protests.

Occupy and political protesters beware. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday held that local police can strip-search anyone who is arrested for minor offenses if they are to be held within the jail’s general population before being released.

The 5-4 decision, with the Court’s conservative majority overruling its four moderates, is a further erosion of the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unlawful search and seizure. It overturns laws in 10 states that place limits on suspicionless strip-searches and upholds a technique used by some local police forces against Occupy protesters last fall, prompting protesters to sue.

Among the jurisdictions seeking expanded authority to strip-search anyone arrested were the City of Chicago, where the NATO summit will be held this May and where protests have been planned, as well as the state of North Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention will be held in early September in Charlotte.

There was a school shooting at a Christian college in Oakland, California yesterday. Seven people were killed and three injured.

Police captured the suspected gunman inside an Alameda grocery store five miles away from the shooting site at Oikos University after he allegedly walked to the customer service counter and told employees, “I just shot some people.”

A law-enforcement source close to the investigation confirmed to The Chronicle that the suspect is 43-year-old One Goh of Oakland.

The suspect used a .45-caliber handgun, spraying a classroom with gunfire and firing additional shots as he ran out, said the source, who did not wish to be identified because the investigation is ongoing.

Goh had been a nursing student at Oikos University, located at 7850 Edgewater Road in East Oakland, and there was some kind of dispute that may have resulted in him getting kicked out of at least one class, the source said.

I have a number of Trayvon Martin links. I won’t quote extensively from them, but I’m still very interested in the case and want to pass on things that I’ve learned.

Some new recordings have come out that show that either George Zimmerman or police decided he didn’t need to go to the hospital after the shooting. If Zimmerman had actually had his head pounded on concrete multiple times, he would have had to be evaluated for a serious head injury, because sometimes you can have internal injuries or hemorrhaging that doesn’t show on the outside.

Trayvon Martin’s parents have formally requested that the Feds investigate whether Norman Wolfinger, the states attorney actually interfered with a police detective who wanted to arrest Zimmerman on the night of the shooting. But Wolfinger is denying that it ever happened. He didn’t deny it in a very nice way either.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Martin family, asked the Justice Department in a letter on Monday to investigate those reports. Though the letter reported the events without attribution, Crump told Reuters his information came from the media reports and he did not have independent verification….

“I am outraged by the outright lies contained in the letter by Benjamin Crump,” Wolfinger said. “I encourage the Justice Department to investigate and document that no such meeting or communication occurred.” [….]

Lynne Bumpus-Hooper, a spokesman for Wolfinger, said the state attorney never spoke with Lee on the night of the shooting. Instead Sanford police consulted that night with Kelly Jo Hines, the prosecutor on call, Bumpus-Hooper said. She declined to say what was discussed.

“Police officers can make an arrest at virtually any dadgum point they feel they have enough probable cause to make an arrest,” Bumpus-Hooper said. “They do not need our permission and they do not seek our permission.”

So who made that decision? The plot thickens.

Today FBI agents appeared in Sanford and began examining the area in which the shooting occurred, and reviewing evidence in a “parallel investigation” with the one being carried out by special prosecutor

The New York Times had an excellent review of Zimmerman’s evolving story about what happened on the night of February 26. If you’re at all interested in this case, be sure to read it. It’s very helpful.

Richard E.J. Escrow had an interesting think piece on the Trayvon Martin case. His conclusion comes from Bob Dylan’s song about the murder of Medgar Evers: Zimmerman is “only a pawn in their game.”

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school …
That the laws are with him, to protect his white skin
To keep up his hate, so he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in, but it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Escrow writes:

Whose game? As it turns out, the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws used to protect shooters like Zimmerman were written and promoted by ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council. As the Center for Media and Democracy notes, the corporate-funded right wing group behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on worker rights is the same group that has promoted ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws all around the country.

You could put a thousand people on Neighborhood Watch and they’d never see the real threats to Zimmerman’s community. Those threats can’t be seen with the eye. The real threats are things like joblessness, financial insecurity, hunger, lack of medical care. They’re threats you can’t protect yourself from with a gun.

Shooters like George Zimmerman are the product of an economic system that benefits from misdirected fear and anger – emotions that are too often channeled into violence instead of peaceful change.

Here’s Dylan performing his song at a voter registration rally in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1963.

Have a great day everyone! Now what’s on your reading list today?

Saturday Reads: the Mona Lisa and War on Poverty edition

Photograph: Gianni Dagli Orti/Corbis

Good morning, news junkies! My Saturday offerings, hot off the presses…

On this day, January 8th, in 1962, the Mona Lisa was exhibited in Washington, marking the first time it was shown in America. From the link, which goes to the History Channel website: “Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Andre Malraux, the French minister of culture, arranged the loan of the painting from the Louvre Museum in Paris to the United States.”

You may have caught the following story on the Mona Lisa from December, but in case you didn’t… From Tom Kington in the Guardian: Mona Lisa’s eyes may reveal model’s identity, expert claims… Silvano Vinceti claims initials – possibly the model’s – are discernible in the left eye of the iconic Da Vinci painting.” Stephen Bayley wrote a piece in the UK Telegraph on this story as well called, Mona Lisa: Leonardo was a genius, let’s leave it at that.

Another piece of historical trivia for January 8th… In 1964, LBJ declared a “War on Poverty” in the US. (Link takes you to an essay hosted on blackpast.org.)

Who has taken up the call to fight the war on poverty today? Hillary spoke of and to “invisible” Americans when she ran in 2008, but the powers-that-be railroaded her and kept her powerful voice off the domestic stage. John Edwards tainted his “Two Americas” rhetoric on poverty with his “narcissism,” as he himself characterized it. Elizabeth Edwards, who was the genuine advocate for the least of these in that power couple, is no longer with us, though she left behind a body of thoughtful writings and interviews to guide us, much in the way she wrote a journal to her children. The other Liz–Elizabeth Warren–is fighting for us, but her hands appear to be tied.

Every day of this Administration that President Obama fails to govern for the people who elected him, he instead tries to win the approval of the corporations who will never openly adore him enough for all his efforts… because nothing he does for them will ever be enough. More and more, his former supporters are coming to realize that they endorsed an empty suit in 2008, which brings me to my first newsy item. From today’s NY Times: Obama the Centrist Irks a Liberal Lion… ‘By freezing federal salaries, by talking about deficits, by extending the Bush tax cuts, he’s legitimizing a Republican narrative,’ Mr. Reich says. ‘Why won’t he tell the alternative story? For three decades we’ve cut taxes on the wealthy while real wages stood still.'”

I’ll answer Reich’s question with a question. When will the left understand that Obama fears and thus respects the Republican narrative and does not do the same when it comes to the liberal narrative? The so-called “caving” to Republicans is by design.

Bob Herbert has some good stuff covering the same ground today; I had a hunch he would:Misery With Plenty of Company…Consider the extremes. President Obama is redesigning his administration to make it even friendlier toward big business and the megabanks, which is to say the rich, who flourish no matter what is going on with the economy in this country. (They flourish even when they’re hard at work destroying the economy.) Meanwhile, we hear not a word — not so much as a peep — about the poor, whose ranks are spreading like a wildfire in a drought.”

Indeed, but I’ll get off my rantbox for now. Here are some other headlines that struck a chord with me throughout the week…

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