Thursday, May 17, 2012

Anti-Gay Marriage Group Recommends Creating Tension Between Gays and Blacks

March 27, 2012, 12:58 pm
I personally hope and pray that African-Americans would sit up and be pro active for equal right for everybody.  They should now what it is like to be denied, equal rights, marriage rights, voting rights, we still are fighting to keep it all together.  The Republicans are trying to take it all away,   And we can ill afford for them to take away the United States of America
If We the People sit back and do nothing, they will win.
9:05 p.m. | Updated An internal memorandum from one of the country’s leading organizations against same-sex marriage outlined a plan to help its cause by exploiting unease among blacks over the issue.
The undated memo was one of several documents unsealed by a federal judge on Monday in a case in Maine, where the group, the National Organization for Marriage, helped finance a successful ballot initiative in 2009 overturning the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage.
“The strategic goal of the project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies,” the memo says, describing an initiative called the “Not a Civil Right Project.”
The project’s goal, according to the memo, was to recruit blacks who opposed same-sex marriage to represent the group, and then “provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.”
The group is battling in court to overturn Maine ethics laws that could require it to reveal some donors. The documents, which also discussed the group’s finances, were obtained and circulated by the Human Rights Campaign. The news Web site BuzzFeed reported on the memos on Monday night.
The memos — providing an unusual inside glimpse of the strategic thinking of the country’s most prominent group opposing same-sex marriage — quickly drew attacks from gay rights and civil rights organizations.

“Nothing beats hearing from the horse’s mouth exactly how callous and extremist this group really is,” Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
The group’s strategy, the memo suggested, was inspired by Proposition 8, the successful effort in 2008 to outlaw same-sex marriage in California. The referendum passed with strong support from black voters, who had turned out heavily to vote for Barack Obama for president.123

Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland failed in 2011, in part because of opposition from some black religious leaders, who objected to advocates’ labeling of same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue and persuaded some Democratic lawmakers to withhold support. But a few months later, in New York, same-sex marriage passed with strong support from black lawmakers, and the Maryland legislature narrowly approved the measure there last month.
In a New York Times/CBS News Poll in February, 29 percent of black respondents said gay couples should be allowed to legally marry, while 23 percent said they should be allowed to form civil unions. But 35 percent said there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship, and 12 percent had no opipondents, 40 percent said they should be allowed to legally marry, while just 5 percent had no opinion.
Gay rights groups have recruited black leaders to advocate on behalf of same-sex marriage. The Human Rights Campaign created a series of videos last year including prominent African-Americans, like Julian Bond, the former N.A.A.C.P. chairman.
Brian S. Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, defended the group’s approach, saying, “African-Americans overwhelmingly oppose same-sex marriage.”
Though the group had fought in court to keep the documents sealed, Mr. Brown said on Tuesday that he was “actually thankful that they gave us a platform to let us make clear that it is the Democratic Party that is creating the division.”
He added that President Obama has not added same-sex marriage to the Democratic platform.
The memo also discussed other groups’ efforts to organize boycotts of businesses that opposed same-sex marriage in California and elsewhere. “One key advantage we now have is the capacity to protect the identity of our donors,” the memo reads.
The National Organization for Marriage is organized as a nonprofit social welfare organization, so unlike purely political groups, it is not required to disclose its donors’ identities. But Maine law requires any individual or group that raises or spends more than $5,000 to influence a ballot question to disclose the names of donors who gave more than $100 for that purpose.
During the 2009 ballot fight, the state’s ethics commission began an investigation into the group for failing to make those disclosures. In response, the group sued, arguing that the state’s law is unconstitutional.

In Secret Documents, Anti-Gay Marriage Group Looked To Divide Gays, Blacks

Blunt language and broad plans from the National Organization for Marriage. A goal: “Fanning the hostility.” Another project: “Sideswiping Obama.” posted
The leading opponents of same-sex marriage planned to defeat campaigns for gay marriage by "fanning the hostility" between black voters from gay voters and by casting President Obama as a radical foe of marriage, according to confidential documents made public in a Maine court today.

The documents, circulated by the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, are marked "confidential" and detail the internal strategy of the National Organization for Marriage.
“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies," says an internal report on 2008 and 2009 campaigns, in a section titled the "Not A Civil Right Project."

"Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots," advises the document, which is a road map to the successful campaign against same-sex marriage in California.
The document also targets Hispanic voters, whom conservatives have long hoped would join the backlash against gay rights.
"The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values?" the document asks. "We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation."
A spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, which has battled NOM tooth and nail for several years, said the documents showed a darker side of the conservative organization.
"Nothing beats hearing from the horse’s mouth exactly how callous and extremist this group really is," said HRC's Campaign Media Director, Kevin Nix.

The documents also makes clear that NOM's plans include the 2012 election.

In a "$20 million strategy for victory" keyed to the 2010 midterm elections, the group says its agenda "requires defeating the pro-gay Obama agenda."

"A pro-marriage president must be elected in 2012," the document says, although Obama has offered tepid opposition to same-sex marriage.

The same document, an update to the group's board, described a $1 million plan through the conservative American Principles Project to "expose Obama as a social radical."

The section, headed "Sideswiping Obama," suggests raising "side issues" including pornography to attack Democrats' flanks.

The group also sought to identify "victims" of same-sex marriage — children raised in gay households — and in another document budgeted $120,000 to locate "children of gay parents willing to speak on camera."

The documents emerged in a dispute over campaign financing under Maine law, and also include detailed 2009 budget plans for the group, whose spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comments on the document.
UPDATE: National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown released a statement Tuesday morning on the documents, which does not refer to the documents but touts the organizations credentials with African-Americans and Hispanics:

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was formed in 2007 and has worked extensively with supporters of traditional marriage from every color, creed and background. We have worked with prominent African-American and Hispanic leaders, including Dr. Aveeda King, Bishop George McKinney of the COGIC Church, Bishop Harry Jackson and the New York State Sen. Reverend Rubén Díaz Sr., all of whom share our concern about protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.Gay marriage advocates have attempted to portray same-sex marriage as a civil right, and the voices of these and many other leaders have provided powerful witness that this claim is patently false. Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out in written materials such as those released in Maine. We proudly bring together people of different races, creeds and colors to fight for our most fundamental institution: marriage.

The case against 'indefinite detention'

By: Rep. Adam Smith and Rep. Justin Amash
May 17, 2012 05:37 PM EDT 

 It does not affect persons captured abroad, including at Guantanamo, the authors write. | AP Photo

The U.S. government cannot keep citizens in prison without accusing them of a specific crime and proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The right to a charge and a trial are in our Constitution. We boast that they separate us from lesser governments—lawless regimes that extinguish liberty on a whim.

Those rights, however, are not as secure as we may think. The federal government now has the power to detain indefinitely any person—including U.S. citizens—arrested on U.S. soil, indefinitely, without charging them with a crime or proving their guilt.

We have proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House is due to consider Thursday, that will protect the right to a charge and a trial for all people arrested in the U.S. It does not affect military detention of persons captured abroad, including those at Guantanamo. It simply states that anyone arrested on U.S. soil must receive his or her constitutional right to a charge and a trial.

Our proposal also repeals last year’s ill-conceived mandatory detention provision. The current law prevents the military from judging whether to detain suspected terrorists caught abroad. The mandatory detention provision was opposed by virtually every national security expert that looked at it — including the heads of the CIA, the Defense Department, the FBI and the director of National Intelligence, as well as several Bush administration national security officials.

Leaving these powers on the books is not only a dangerous threat to our civil liberties, but also undermines one of our strongest assets in trying suspected terrorists: Article III courts and domestic law enforcement. Since Sept. 11, the federal government has successfully prosecuted more than 400 defendants charged with crimes related to international terrorism. That is a proven track record of success that we should embrace.

This year’s Defense authorization purports to solve the constitutional problem of indefinite detention by stating that the Afghanistan Authorized Use of Military Force and last year’s Defense authorization do not “deny the availability of the writ of habeas corpus … for any person who is detained in the United States.”

That sounds like an effective solution until you realize that no one believes habeas has been suspended. The Bush and Obama administrations haven’t claimed it’s been suspended. The Supreme Court stated unambiguously in 2004, “All agree suspension of the writ [of habeas corpus] has not occurred here.” As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, the Afghanistan AUMF “is not remotely a congressional suspension of the writ, and no one claims that it is.”

Habeas corpus offers limited protection. It doesn’t prevent the government from taking Americans from their homes based on accusations that they’ve “substantially supported” forces “associated” with terrorists. It doesn’t guarantee Americans that the government will charge them and try them in court. And it does nothing to stop the government from locking them up indefinitely.

Habeas simply allows Americans arrested under the Afghanistan AUMF to have a hearing on their status as enemy combatant suspects. The government needs to submit only minimal evidence to continue lifetime imprisonment. It can use hearsay. Courts are required to assume that the government’s records are accurate. The government doesn’t even need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

To his credit, President Barack Obama has pledged that he “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” saying to do so “would break with our most important traditions and values.”

In addition, both the Bush administration and the Obama administration have prosecuted terrorists in the U.S. without using indefinite detention, and without ultimately utilizing military custody in the U.S. Not only is the power of indefinite detention an executive branch overreach, it also is unnecessary.

Obama’s promise is not binding on himself or any future president and this power represents a danger to civil liberties, due process and the Constitution.

Americans’ constitutionally protected rights should not depend on presidential promises or who’s in charge. A free country is defined by the rule of law, not the government’s whim.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Campaigns Duel Over Romney’s Bain Record

May 15, 2012, 7:56 am

Some of the most explosive moments in presidential campaigns are fueled by surprise. The political power of an unexpected allegation often comes from the frenzy surrounding its revelation.
That wasn’t the case on Monday, when President Obama’s campaign unveiled what might turn out to have been the most anticipated attack of the 2012 campaign: the critique of Mitt Romney’s years at Bain Capital.
In the new ad, Mr. Obama’s campaign unleashes a broadside against Mr. Romney’s business credentials, accusing him of being a corporate raider whose private equity firm preyed on weak companies, seeking profits, then tossed aside their employees with little regard.
This morning, Priorities U.S.A., a “super PAC” backing Mr. Obama, is out with its own ad about Bain Capital, which echoes the theme set by Mr. Obama’s campaign. The organization will spend $4 million to air its Bain ad in Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
“With Romney and Bain Capital, the objective was to make money,” a former employee of GST Steel, a company taken over by Bain Capital, says in the Priorities U.S.A. ad. “If we lost, they made money. If we survived, they made money. It’s as simple as that.”
The attacks on Bain underscore the fundamental premise of Mr. Obama’s campaign — that voters will reject the idea of handing the White House over to a wealthy businessman who got rich by buying and selling companies with little concern for workers.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Stephanie Cutter, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama’s campaign, said the fate of the GST Steel mill in Kansas City demonstrates what Mr. Romney’s values are and “what they tell us about what type of president Mr. Romney would be.”
But as Mr. Obama tries to make that case against Mr. Romney, he faces the challenge of reviving an issue that has been lodged against the Republican nominee for more than a decade, including by members of his own party.
Mr. Romney survived attacks on Bain Capital when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002. And he weathered charges of being a “vulture capitalist” by some of his Republican rivals earlier this year.
In an interview Monday evening, Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Mr. Romney, shrugged off the attacks, saying they have already been litigated in the court of public opinion.
“We’ve been down this road before,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said. “Attacks on how our free enterprise system works have a way of backfiring.”
That may happen. If voters conclude that Mr. Obama’s attacks on Mr. Romney amount to an unfair criticism of capitalism, it might boomerang on the president as a political weapon. (It also has the potential to turn off wealthy donors who may already view Mr. Obama with suspicion because of his efforts to regulate the banking industry.)
Still, Mr. Romney’s campaign is not ignoring the attacks. The Republican campaign quickly released its own Web-only video on Monday that tells the story of another steel plant that Mr. Romney’s firm invested in. In this case, the company is thriving, having added thousands of jobs.
“When others shied away, Mitt Romney’s private sector leadership team stepped in,” the ad says of the Bain Capital investment. “Building a dream with over 6,000 employees today.”
The quick response, with a video that was produced long before Monday, suggests that Mr. Romney’s camp might be more worried than they are letting on.
It’s one thing to weather attacks from a gubernatorial opponent in a statewide campaign. It’s something altogether different when an aggressive presidential campaign like Mr. Obama’s takes aim.
During the Republican primaries, Mr. Romney fought back against the attacks from Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney by vastly outspending his rivals. He bombarded the airwaves with criticisms of their records, drowning out even the ads by the well-funded super PAC backing Mr. Gingrich.
So far, Mr. Obama’s investment in the Bain attacks is tiny — the two-minute ad will run only once on Wednesday during the evening news. But in the end, Mr. Romney will not have the same kind of overwhelming position in the general election as he had in the primary battles.
And even though the outlines of the attack on Mr. Romney are not new, the specifics are powerful, especially to voters in states that were not subject to millions of dollars of campaign ads during the primaries.
The former employees of the GST plant in Kansas City offer emotional testimony about what happened to them — losing their jobs, their pensions, their health care benefits. They blame Mr. Romney even though he had left Bain Capital by the time the steel company went bankrupt.
“They came in, they bought the plant, and they made as much money off it as they could,” said Joe Soptic, a former employee who told reporters during the conference call how the lack of health insurance affected his wife’s battle with cancer. “He is only worried about one group of people, and that’s people like him, people at the top.”
Mr. Romney’s campaign is betting that they can counter those employees with ones of their own. In the web video they released, employees of Steel Dynamics, the successful steel company in Indiana, thank Mr. Romney for creating jobs.
“If it wasn’t for a company like Steel Dynamics, this county wouldn’t have a lot,” one employee says.
Both campaigns take issue with the way the other tells the story of Mr. Romney’s experience at Bain.
Mr. Obama’s campaign accuses Mr. Romney of taking undue credit for jobs at Steel Dynamics that didn’t come until years later. Mr. Romney’s campaign says the bankruptcy at GST Steel was the result of nationwide economic conditions that drove more than 30 similar plants out of business at the time.
Mr. Ferhnstrom also accuses Mr. Obama’s campaign of “desperation” for beginning the Bain attack now, rather than in the final weeks of the campaign.
“We were expecting Obama to launch his negative Bain attacks in the fall, closer to the election,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said. “He’s moved up all of his negative attacks to the spring. It has the feel of a desperation move.”
But desperation or not, Mr. Obama’s attacks have the potential to put a human face on the argument that Mr. Romney is an uncaring, wealthy politician whose business experience taught him the wrong lessons to deal with the economic struggles of the middle class.
If the ads work with independent voters as Mr. Obama hopes, it could help cement that image. If it doesn’t, Mr. Romney could once again emerge unscathed from the Bain attacks — and sitting in the White House.

2012 remainders: Early

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney offers cookies to members of the media on the charter airplane, Thursday, May 17, 2012, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Mitt rebukes Ricketts PAC, stands by own comments on Wright

Via POLITICO's Juana Summers, Mitt Romney's latest comments in the Jeremiah Wright back-and-forth:
"I want to make it very clear, I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the futures and about issues and about a vision for America," Romney told reporters Thursday. "I've been disappointed in the president's campaign to date, which has been focused on character assassination. I just think that we're wiser to talk about the issues of the day, what we do to get America working again, talk about our respective records." …

Romney was also questioned about a February appearance on Sean Hannity's radio show in which he brought up Wright himself during the GOP primary, but said he was unfamiliar with the specific quote.

"I'm actually — I'm not familiar with precisely, exactly what I said. But I stand by what I said, whatever it was. And with regards to — I'll go back and take a look at what was said there," he said.

 Ricketts flack says Wright attack plan has been rejected

TD Ameritrade billionaire and super PAC financier Joe Ricketts has rejected a plan to attack President Barack Obama for his association with the firebrand preacher Jeremiah Wright, according to a spokesman for Ricketts.

Brian Baker, who heads the Ricketts-backed Ending Spending super PAC, called the proposal to tar Obama with Wright-themed ads "an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects."

"Joe Ricketts is a registered independent, a fiscal conservative, and an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration, but he is neither the author nor the funder of the so-called 'Ricketts Plan' to defeat Mr. Obama that The New York Times wrote about this morning," Baker said in a statement. "Not only was this plan merely a proposal — one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors — but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take."

Baker continued: "Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a President this fall who shares his commitment to economic responsibility, but his efforts are and will continue to be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally."

That's a swift, categorical statement that reflects the scale of the uproar over the proposal reported in the Times. And for all the Democratic demands this morning for Mitt Romney to declare that the Wright issue is out of bounds, the Ricketts team's statement more or less confirms that as a practical political matter, the issue is probably too hot to handle anyway.

Campaigns pour money into early advertising blitzes.
Romney campaign plans its first general-election TV ad.
Why is Wright off-limits?
Joe Ricketts has ties to Obama and the Democrats, despite his GOP donations this year.
GOP takeover of the Senate depends, like in 2010, on insurgent candidates.
Rick Perry casts his vote for Romney in Texas.

G.O.P. ‘Super PAC’ Weighs Hard-Line Attack on Obama

May 17, 2012

A campaign playbook by high-profile Republican strategists.

WASHINGTON — A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the “super PAC” era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from. 

Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote. 

The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.
“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.   Mr. Ricketts is increasingly putting his fortune to work in conservative politics.

The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”
The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.” 

A copy of a detailed advertising plan was obtained by The New York Times through a person not connected to the proposal who was alarmed by its tone. It is titled “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good.” 

The proposal was presented last week in Chicago to associates and family members of Mr. Ricketts, who is also the patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs. 

Brian Baker, president and general counsel of a super PAC called the Ending Spending Action Fund, said Mr. Ricketts had studied several advertising proposals in recent months and had not signed off on a specific approach to taking on Mr. Obama. 

“Joe Ricketts is prepared to spend significant resources in the 2012 election in both the presidential race and Congressional races,” Mr. Baker said in an interview Wednesday. “He is very concerned about the future direction of the country and plans to take a stand.”
The document makes clear that the effort is only in the planning stages and awaiting full approval from Mr. Ricketts. People involved in the planning said the publicity now certain to surround it could send the strategists back to the drawing board. 

But it serves as a rare, detailed look at the birth of the sort of political sneak attack that has traditionally been hatched in the shadows and has become a staple of presidential politics.
It also shows how a single individual can create his own movement and spend unlimited sums to have major influence on a presidential election in a campaign finance environment in which groups operating independently of candidates are flourishing. 

Should the plan proceed, it would run counter to the strategy being employed by Mitt Romney’s team, which has so far avoided such attacks. The Romney campaign has sought to focus attention on the economy, and has concluded that personal attacks on Mr. Obama, who is still well liked personally by most independent voters surveyed for polls, could backfire.
Mr. Ricketts has become an increasingly active player in Republican politics through several political action committees, including Ending Spending. He has a son, Pete, who is a member of the Republican National Committee from Nebraska and a daughter, Laura, who is a top contributor to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign. She has not been involved in her father’s political efforts. 

The 54-page proposal was professionally bound and illustrated with color photographs, indicating that it is far beyond a mere discussion. The strategists have already contacted Larry Elder, a black conservative radio host in Los Angeles, about serving as a spokesman, and the plan calls for a group of black business leaders to endorse the effort. The strategists have also registered a domain name, Character Matters. 

The proposal suggests that Mr. Ricketts believes the 2008 campaign of Senator John McCain erred in not using images of Mr. Wright against Mr. Obama, who has said that the pastor helped him find Jesus but that he was never present for Mr. Wright’s politically charged sermons. Mr. Obama left the church during the campaign. 

Apparently referring to a Wright ad that was produced for the McCain campaign by Mr. Davis’s firm but never used, the proposal opens with a quote from Mr. Ricketts: “If the nation had seen that ad, they’d never have elected Barack Obama.” 

The planning document is emblazoned with the logo of Strategic Perception, the political advertising firm of Mr. Davis, the colorful Republican operative who last worked on the Republican presidential campaign of former Gov. Jon M. Huntsman of Utah. Included on his “Recommended Team of Pirates” are the former Huntsman pollster Whit Ayres and the McCain campaign Internet strategist Becki Donatelli. 

The document, which was written by former advisers to Mr. McCain, is critical of his decision in 2008 not to aggressively pursue Mr. Obama’s relationship with Mr. Wright. In the opening paragraphs of the proposal, the Republican strategists refer to Mr. McCain as “a crusty old politician who often seemed confused, burdened with a campaign just as confused.” 

“Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama’s opinions of America and the world were formed,” the proposal says. “And why the influence of that misguided mentor and our president’s formative years among left-wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees.” 

The plan is designed for maximum impact, far beyond a typical $10 million television advertising campaign. It calls for full-page newspaper advertisements featuring a comment Mr. Wright made the Sunday after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he said. 

The plan is for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., to be “jolted.” The advertising campaign would include television ads, outdoor advertisements and huge aerial banners flying over the convention site for four hours one afternoon. 

The strategists grappled with the quandary of running against Mr. Obama that other Republicans have cited this year: “How to inflame their questions on his character and competency, while allowing themselves to still somewhat ‘like’ the man becomes the challenge.”
Lamenting that voters “still aren’t ready to hate this president,” the document concludes that the campaign should “explain how forces out of Obama’s control, that shaped the man, have made him completely the wrong choice as president in these days and times.” 

Remainders: Sign here

  • GOP has emergency plan to defend Arizona against an Obama pickup (Talking Points Memo || Evan McMorris-Santoro).
  • Romney to run first general election TV ad (AP || Kasie Hunt).
  • Yglesias: Ricketts plan was more about getting Ricketts to spend money (Slate || Matthew Yglesias).
  • Rahm Emanuel displeased with Ricketts family ad campaign, may impact stadium funding (Crain's Chicago Business || Greg Hinz).
  • Opinion: Why is Jeremiah Wright off-limits anyway? (The Atlantic || David A. Graham).
  • And BuzzFeed has a Photoshop rendering of a proposed Super PAC plan to depict Obama as a "black, metrosexual Abe Lincoln" (Photoshop by BuzzFeed's Chris Ritter).  

Let’s put Jamie Dimon on trial

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon should explain why a megabank that accidentally loses billions is good for the economy


Jamie Dimon (Credit: Reuters/Keith Bedford)

Let’s put JPMorgan Chase chairman, president and CEO James “Jamie” Dimon on trial. Mr. Dimon has a reputation for being the sagest guy on Wall Street and an expert at managing risk. JPMorgan emerged from the financial crisis not just unscathed but secure enough to step in and rescue Bear Stearns when the government asked it to. (He gets very mad when you say that his bank got bailed out by the government, and he insists that the government made him take all that free money.) Then his bank somehow accidentally lost billions of dollars last week, whoops! And he is really embarrassed, but not embarrassed enough to fire himself. So, let’s put him on trial and force him to explain what good he and his bank are.

The SEC is investigating the massive loss, but that will take a lot of time and the eventual report will probably be very difficult for novices to understand and probably they won’t put anyone in jail. Dimon might have to be hauled before Congress to answer questions, but no one watches congressional hearings, and no one likes members of Congress. I think a big televised prime-time tribunal would be best. And then maybe some JPMorgan shareholders, unemployed people, journalists and angry bloggers can just ask him some really simple questions about why he thinks JPMorgan shouldn’t be regulated at all.

While I am definitely endorsing a humiliating show trial, we don’t have to send Jamie Dimon to jail afterward, even if a jury of people who had their houses foreclosed on them find him guilty. The point of this is to mainly have him on the record, compelled to answer questions plainly and clearly, to an unfriendly audience of non-Davos people.

This very good explainer helps us to understand how exactly JPMorgan came to misplace billions of dollars, but it raises more questions than it answers. Questions like, “Wouldn’t it have been better if that $2 billion had been used for almost anything in the world besides shady mega-bank gambling that no one understands?” And, “Doesn’t it seem you guys could save a bit of money on salaries and so forth while still achieving basically the same results if you replaced your chief investment officer with some old people who play video slots all day?”

I am just not really clear on the role JPMorgan has in a healthy and functioning economy, whether it is making billions in high-stakes gambling or losing billions in high-stakes gambling. It seems like America was actually doing pretty well with there not being any such thing as credit-default swaps, which JPMorgan invented, in the 1990s, right before investment banks were allowed to merge with retail banks and do whatever they wanted with everyone’s money.

I’d also like Mr. Dimon to have to explain whether he knew he was about to have to admit to losing billions of dollars when, on May 3,he complained about the “discrimination” faced by bankers. Dimon also argued a few days later that the economy would’ve added twice as many jobs in the last 24 months if it weren’t for a “constant attack on business” from various unnamed hippies and government bureaucrats. I would like to know how many jobs were created when JPMorgan accidentally lost some unknown amount of money that is likely to end up being more than $2 billion? Also did Dimon lie during his first-quarter earnings call last month, or did he have no idea what sort of things his chief investment office was up to (even after their actions were reported in the press)? If he didn’t have any idea, shouldn’t he maybe step down to run a smaller bank, where he can keep a closer eye on everything? Dimon said initially that the stuff that lost all the money wouldn’t have violated the Volcker Rule, even though it plainly violates the spirit of the Volcker Rule but also he’s not sure if the bank broke any laws? Jamie, I think maybe you should consider retirement; this bank is too complicated for you.

Dimon gets so defensive when people trash banks and bankers because he thinks his bank makes the world a better place. He thinks that JPMorgan making as much money for itself as possible is good for everyone, because capitalism. Much as today’s super-rich, the .01 percent who are largely CEOs and financial industry professionals, are a bunch of rentiers who’ve convinced themselves that they are job-creating titans of industry, Dimon has convinced himself that his firm is making our economy function better instead of just playing incredibly complex computer games with unimaginable sums of other people’s money.

So let’s haul him before a judge (I would be fine with Judge Judy) and ask him to explain, without jargon, what positive role JPMorgan plays for the American and world economies that a few much smaller, less leveraged firms couldn’t also play while not being at risk of losing billions of dollars by accident in a “hedge” and sending world markets reeling.

I mean, I’m sure he’d never admit to any sort of culpability for our current morass (it’s the gubmint’s fault!) because he clearly believes his own bullshit and he’s never faced any sort of serious challenge to his viewpoint, but it still might be very good television.

So A Comatose Guy and A Dead Guy Walk Into A Bar....

by Abby Zimet
05.17.12 - 10:48 AM 

Why We Need To Replace Much of Congress Dept: Rep. Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican up for re-election who has served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote a constituent a letter suggesting that peace in the Middle East depends on restarting negotiations between Yasir Arafat (who died in 2004) and Ariel Sharon (who has been in a coma since 2006) - or, as one observer noted, "between a vegetable and a dead man." A spokesman explained that responding to so many letters a year is "a complicated process."
"With the global war against terrorism, it is now incumbent on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasir Arafat to clamp down on Palestinian extremists that have perpetuated violence and to restart a peace process that has collapsed."

'The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama'

  The Defeat of Barak H Obama

If there is a more tiresome phrase in the modern political lexicon than the one that cautions people "not to go there," I know not what it is. I have been watching the rise of movement conservatism, and the resultant radicalization of the Republican party, for going on 30 years now, all the way back to the NCPAC campaigns run against people like George McGovern and Frank Church by that nasty closet-case Terry Dolan, and my experience tells me that they will always "go there" and, by degrees, they will take us all "there" with them, and, gradually, what seemed extreme will become mainstream. They first "went there" when Harry Dent told them they could win elections by energizing the inchoate rage of crumbling American apartheid. They gay-baited Tom Foley when he was Speaker. The Willie Horton commercial is now remembered mainly as an effective tactic, and not as the piece of racist slime that it always was. They managed to get the respectable press chasing down the most lunatic fake scandals regarding the Clintons, and birtherism had a longer run than it would have had in any political context that was in any way sane. Alex Castellanos conjures up the "Hands" ad to gin up racist anger against Harvey Gantt and in favor of the inexcusable Jesse Helms, and now Castellanos is a respectable commentator on CNN.

They always "go there." They can't help themselves.

And now, of course, thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts, who slid through his confirmation hearings because the Democrats chickened out on the filibuster, and the Citizens United decision, they can "go there" in luxury. The whole system is now rigged so that gozillionnaires, anonymous and otherwise, can purchase a private pipeline to pump as much raw sewage as they can into our elections. They look at democracy as just another bit of the landscape they can despoil. "Go there"? These people live "there." They got rich "there." Wherever "there" is in regard to a politician, they find inconvenient to their divine right to rule the country for their own profit, they will set up shop, and the rest of the political process will follow them "there" because the process is so corrupt it can't function anywhere else.

Comes now Joe Ricketts, the man behind Deb Fischer's surprise win in the Nebraska Republican senatorial contest on Tuesday, and his new super-PAC, which has set itself to "go there" in high style, indeed. The price tag is $10 million and it is almost breathtakingly cynical and vicious. It is not only going to trot out Jeremiah Wright again but, as the Times puts it so delicately today, it plans to "respond to charges" of race-baiting — which will arise because the whole campaign is, you know, race-baiting — by "hiring as a spokesman an 'extremely literate conservative African-American' who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a 'metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.'

Let's see. They need a black mouthpiece to race-bait and fag-bait the president.

Move over, Larry Elder; we're ready for your close-up, Mr. Cain.

(Also, a note to all those people who assured me while I was in Nebraska this month that Deb Fischer was really a nice lady from the Plains, a moderate who can work "across the aisle," and not at all a wingnut: This is the guy to whom she owes her success. Without him, she's canning preserves and arguing about repairs to the county roads. Res ipse, etc.)

They used to keep this kind of thing quiet. Howard Hunt wore a wig. Donald Segretti had several aliases. People went to jail rather than give up Chuck Colson, or Bob Haldeman, or The Trick Himself. They don't have to pretend any more. They don't have to launder illegal campaign cash through Mexican banks. There is practically no such thing as an illegal campaign contribution any more.

They used to meet in secret. When conservatives decided to go all-in on the remnants of white supremacy, they developed their own code for it. When Trent Lott got caught hob-nobbing with racists, people actually were shocked about it. They don't have to pretend anymore. There is no longer a need for code.  There is practically nothing anyone can say about this president in public as long as he's rich enough not to give a damn. 

This is what three decades of tolerating this has brought us. This is what the Supreme Court has wrought in the past few years. It used to be, if you ran a foul and dishonest campaign, and it worked, you at least made a pass while in office to behave as though all your slandering and dishonesty was done in pursuit of a noble goal, in an attempt to gain a position worth having, so you did the occasional good government thing that you could sell to the Jaycees back home while you were slandering and cheating your way to re-election, or up to the next step on the career ladder. So some good got done by accident or, as Drew Pearson had his fictional president, Ben Hannaford, put it, "In a democracy, the right things always get done for the wrong reasons."

Now, though, there's no need to fake it once you make it. The offices were devalued as we convinced ourselves that "government" was an alien entity, and we accepted the fundamental absurdity of people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to run for office because they were "not a politician," and running for positions in a government that they pretended to distrust, instead of laughing those people off the national stage as the charlatans they obviously are. Political office became a career move, a vehicle to continue your career in business through other means. And, as this became more and more the rule, actual public service waned, and government began to fail, and the cycle fed on itself until, today, our campaigns are judged and rewarded as though candidates were pitching an ad campaign, with success measured in the same way.

We have done a remarkable thing in this country. We have privatized both political slander and political corruption. 

 So, yes, they appear to be going "there" in Jeremiah Wright again, and on "the campaign John McCain refused to wage," as though McCain could have saved himself by being as big a public blight as Joe Ricketts has set himself to be, as though a few commercials featuring angry black preachers could have saved the Republican ticket from eight years of Republican policies that helped turn the world's economy into a plague ship, as though just the right amount of race-baiting and fag-baiting could have saved the day. (And as though Jeremiah Wright could have bailed McCain out of the utter idiocy of choosing Sarah Palin as the person best qualified, besides him, to have her grifting little mitts on the nuclear code.) Of course, they're "going there." There is here, and has been for longer than it's comfortable for us all to admit.

Highlights of "The View"'s Interview with President Barack Obama!

May 14, 2012 | Posted at 4:48 PM

During an appearance on ABC's "The View" that aired on Tuesday, President Barack Obama took aim at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on the issue of gay marriage.
"This is going to be a big contrast in the campaign," he explained. "Because you've got Gov. Romney saying we should actually have a constitutional amendment installing the notion that you can't have same-sex marriages."
The president also said Romney's support of a constitutional amendment "federalized the whole issue," adding, "He would defend the Defense of Marriage Act. So there are real differences here."
Romney opposes civil unions and gay marriage. "My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not," he recently told local Denver station KDVR-TV.
Obama came out in support of gay marriage last week.
In an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, the president said, "I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
HuffPost's Mollie Reilly has more on what Obama had to say on "The View":
President Barack Obama discussed JPMorgan Chase's $2 billion loss on Monday, saying the bank's massive failure proves why Wall Street reform is necessary. "JPMorgan is one of the best-managed banks there is," Obama said during an interview on ABC's "The View", which will air on Tuesday. "Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got, and they still lost $2 billion and counting."
Dimon, who appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press" Sunday, told host David Gregory he had been "dead wrong" to dismiss concerns about the banks questionable trades.
On a lighter note, the president said that First Lady Michelle Obama "gets jealous when I sing too much." Obama made headlines earlier this year when he sang Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" at a fundraiser at the Apollo Theater. During his appearance on "The View," the president said that his wife "thinks this is kind of a private thing."

The President’s discussion on same-sex marriage, followed by the family talk and pop culture quiz, in two clips via ABC below:

If Not Now, When?

by Abby Zimet
05.15.12 - 1:30 PM 

Kudos to Josef Miles, a nine-year-old kid in Kansas who saw the sick creeps of Westboro Baptist Church picketing a university graduation, asked his mom for a piece of paper, and mounted his own soulful protest. He wrote: "God Hates No One."

Obama campaign blasts Romney again

The Obama campaign blasts Mitt Romney again for his failure to denounce a proposed ad campaign: “Today, Mitt Romney had the opportunity to distance himself from his previous attempts to inject the divisive politics of character assassination into the presidential race. It was a moment that required moral leadership, and once again he didn’t rise to the occasion. Throughout the course of the campaign, he has repeatedly refused to stand up to the most extreme voices in the Republican Party. If this is the ‘leadership’ he has shown on the campaign trail, what can the American people expect of him President of the United States?” campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.

Trayvon Martin Case Shadowed by Series of Police Missteps

May 16, 2012

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Trayvon Martin was killed Feb. 26 at the Retreat at Twin Lakes. The initial investigation into his death was dogged by problems.



Mario Tama/Getty Images
“There was no bias in the investigation. We did not lean one way or another. We were looking for the truth," said Bill Lee Jr., center, the Sanford police chief. 

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
The Retreat at Twin Lakes. What happened there may come to rest on the word of George Zimmerman. 

Mario Tama/Getty Images
A memorial to Trayvon Martin outside the gated community. 

David Manning/Reuters
A rally for George Zimmerman at the county courthouse. 

Sanford Police Department, via Associated Press
Mr. Zimmerman in handcuffs at the Sanford police station the night of the killing.

SANFORD, Fla. — The killing of Trayvon Martin here two and a half months ago has been cast as the latest test of race relations and equal justice in America. But it was also a test of a small city police department that does not even have a homicide unit and typically deals with three or four murder cases a year.
An examination of the Sanford Police Department’s handling of the case shows a series of missteps — including sloppy work — and circumstances beyond its control that impeded the investigation and may make it harder to pursue a case that is already difficult enough.
The national furor has subsided for the moment. But as the second-degree murder case against the defendant, George Zimmerman, moves from the glare of a public spectacle to the grinding procedures of the court system and eventual trial, the department’s performance, roundly criticized by Mr. Martin’s family as bungling and biased, will be scrutinized once again, though in more meticulous detail.
With doubts shadowing the quality and scope of the police work, the prosecution and the defense will be left to tackle critical questions even as they debate the evidence. And ultimately, what happened on the rainy night of Feb. 26 may come to rest on the word of one man, George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer who fired the fatal shot.
In interviews over several weeks, law enforcement authorities, witnesses and local elected officials identified problems with the initial investigation:
¶ On the night of the shooting, door-to-door canvassing was not exhaustive enough, said a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation. If officers had been more thorough, they might have determined that Mr. Martin, 17, was a guest — as opposed to an intruder — at a gated community called the Retreat at Twin Lakes. That would have been an important part of the subjective analysis that night by officers sizing up Mr. Zimmerman’s story. Investigators found no witnesses who saw the fight start. Others saw parts of a struggle they could not clearly observe or hear. One witness, though, provided information to the police that corroborated Mr. Zimmerman’s account of the struggle, according to a law enforcement official.
¶ The police took only one photo at the scene of any of Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries — a full-face picture of him that showed a bloodied nose — before paramedics tended to him. It was shot on a department cellphone camera and was not downloaded for a few days, an oversight by the officer who took it.
¶ The vehicle that Mr. Zimmerman was driving when he first spotted Mr. Martin was mistakenly not secured by officers as part of the crime scene. The vehicle was an important link in the fatal encounter because it was where Mr. Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious teenager in a hooded sweatshirt roaming through the Retreat. Mr. Zimmerman also said he was walking back to the vehicle when he was confronted by Mr. Martin, who was unarmed, before shooting him.
¶ The police were not able to cover the crime scene to shield evidence from the rain, and any blood from cuts that Mr. Zimmerman suffered when he said Mr. Martin pounded his head into a sidewalk may have been washed away.
¶ The police did not test Mr. Zimmerman for alcohol or drug use that night, and one witness said the lead investigator quickly jumped to a conclusion that it was Mr. Zimmerman, and not Mr. Martin, who cried for help during the struggle.
Some Sanford officers were skeptical from the beginning about certain details of Mr. Zimmerman’s account. For instance, he told the police that Mr. Martin had punched him over and over again, but they questioned whether his injuries were consistent with the number of blows he claimed he received. They also suspected that some of the threatening and dramatic language that Mr. Zimmerman said Mr. Martin uttered during the struggle — like “You are going to die tonight” — sounded contrived.
The Sanford police — who contended that their 16-day investigation, done in consultation with the original prosecutor in the case, was detailed and impartial — also encountered other obstacles. One involved the investigators’ inability to get the password for Mr. Martin’s cellphone from his family, who apparently did not know it. That was significant because Mr. Martin had been talking to a girl on the phone moments before he was killed, but the young woman did not contact the police after Mr. Martin’s death was made public.
From what is known of the investigation and the available evidence, what exactly happened in the dimly lighted residential development that Sunday night may remain out of reach. Given Mr. Zimmerman’s assertion that he was acting in self-defense, and lacking enough evidence to the contrary, the original prosecutor in the case, Norm Wolfinger, whose jurisdiction includes Sanford, filed no charges against him.
That decision resulted in an increasingly strident public outcry. After Gov. Rick Scott of Florida contacted Mr. Wolfinger and had a conversation with him in late March, the prosecutor recused himself, citing, among other things, an unspecified conflict of interest.
The governor selected another state attorney to handle the case, Angela B. Corey of the Jacksonville area. On April 11, after nearly three weeks of investigation, Ms. Corey charged Mr. Zimmerman with second-degree murder. An accompanying affidavit said that Mr. Zimmerman had “profiled” Mr. Martin, who was black, and had assumed he was a criminal. Mr. Zimmerman is Hispanic.
Ms. Corey declined to be interviewed, as did Mr. Wolfinger. Governor Scott also declined several requests for an interview about how and why he selected Ms. Corey for the case.
In announcing the charge, Ms. Corey praised the Sanford Police Department’s work, indicating that it had conducted a “thorough and intensive” inquiry and was a “tremendous help” to her office.
Eight Minutes
What appears unchanged since the beginning, however, is that investigators say they do not know who started the fight. Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which has come to shadow a number of homicide cases since it was adopted in 2005, justifies the use of deadly force in certain threatening situations but does not require a person to retreat. The law became the framework within which the police and prosecutors had to work after Mr. Zimmerman claimed that Mr. Martin confronted and pounced on him.
Mr. Zimmerman had called the police from his vehicle to report what he believed was a suspicious person in the Retreat, something he had done numerous times in the past. He later told investigators that he got out of his vehicle and followed Mr. Martin but lost sight of him. As Mr. Zimmerman was returning to his vehicle, he told them, Mr. Martin emerged and then attacked him. Mr. Zimmerman told investigators that at one point, Mr. Martin had his hand over his mouth. And before he shot the youth, he explained to the police, Mr. Martin had reached for Mr. Zimmerman’s gun.
“There is a perception that we were trying to protect George Zimmerman,” the Sanford police chief, Bill Lee Jr., who temporarily stepped aside in March to quell the furor and later offered to resign, said in a recent interview. “We think that what he did was terrible. We wish that he had just stayed in his vehicle.”
“There was no bias in the investigation. We did not lean one way or another. We were looking for the truth,” he said.
Chief Lee declined to discuss specifics about the case, but he added, “I have been frustrated by the negative attention the police and the city have received that does not accurately reflect who we are and what we have done in this investigation.”At 7:09 p.m., Mr. Zimmerman, who was driving to a Target store, made his call to a police dispatcher.
Within eight minutes, Mr. Martin was dead from a gunshot wound to the chest, his body crumpled on a stretch of grass behind a row of town houses. When the first officer arrived at 7:17, Mr. Zimmerman was waiting not far from the body. He raised his hands in surrender before relinquishing his 9-millimeter pistol from the holster in his waistband.
He was handcuffed and taken into “investigative detention” at Sanford police headquarters, where he was read his Miranda rights and answered questions without a lawyer present. Investigators described him as unhesitatingly cooperative. At some point, Mr. Zimmerman provided the police with a permit allowing him to carry a concealed weapon. His clothes were taken into evidence after his wife came to the station with a new set.
A law enforcement official said officers did not seize Mr. Zimmerman’s vehicle because they thought that he had been on foot. They did not realize that he had been driving until after his wife had moved the vehicle, the official said.
The official said he believed that the police, in the hours after the shooting, sought to determine whether Mr. Zimmerman was wanted for any crimes. But he said they did not have a complete background check in hand until midmorning the next day — after Mr. Zimmerman had been released. The records showed a domestic violence dispute with a woman who identified herself as his ex-fiancée and a run-in with a state alcohol agent, neither of which resulted in a conviction.
As for the officer at the scene who took the single full-face photo of Mr. Zimmerman — he suffered a nose fracture and other injuries during the struggle — he called an investigator “in a panic” over his failure to download it sooner, according to a person familiar with the case. Other photos of Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries were later shot at police headquarters, although he had been cleaned up by paramedics by then.
Another investigator briefed on the case said officers should have been more thorough as they knocked on doors in the neighborhood: they might have learned Mr. Martin’s identity early and that he was staying at the town house of his father’s girlfriend and was not trespassing. At the time of the shooting, the girlfriend’s 14-year-old son was waiting for Mr. Martin to return from a 7-Eleven store, where he had bought a bag of Skittles candies and a can of iced tea. Mr. Martin was not identified until Monday morning, about 13 hours after he was killed, when the police learned that his father, Tracy Martin, had reported him as missing.
One witness said a police investigator twice declined her offer to show him the close and unobstructed vantage point from a partly opened bedroom window where she had watched and heard the struggle between Mr. Martin and Mr. Zimmerman. The witness, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition she remain anonymous because the investigation is active, said the detective taped part of her account.
She also recalled telling him that night that she was haunted by the cries for help she believed came from Mr. Martin during the struggle. But she said the investigator seemed to have already formed an opinion about what had happened. He told her, she said, that it was Mr. Zimmerman — not Mr. Martin — who was the one screaming, an assertion that remains in dispute.
More than a month later, she and her lawyer, Derek Brett of Orlando, met with two investigators from Ms. Corey’s office. Mr. Brett said his client was subject to only 15 minutes or so of “substantive questioning.”
“This surprised me because when something is not done properly, in this instance by the police, you sit down and do more than just fill in the blanks,” he said.
On the night of the shooting, the police were assisted by the Seminole County sheriff’s office, which sent a representative to the scene with a live fingerprint scanner to see if a match showed up for Mr. Martin. It did not.
Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Martins, said that Mr. Martin was carrying a T-Mobile Comet phone and that the police contacted his father a day or two after the shooting to get the password, but he did not know it.
A law enforcement official said that the phone had died not long after the police retrieved it, and that it took days for the authorities to get a charger and an expert to try to get into the device. If the police had been able to get access to it, they could have interviewed Mr. Martin’s friend about what he had told her in those final moments of his life and what else she had heard. The police eventually subpoenaed Mr. Martin’s cellphone records, but did not receive them in a timely fashion.
The official said that while the police never tested Mr. Zimmerman for alcohol or drugs, such decisions are left to the discretion of investigators based on whether they have reason to suspect the person is under the influence. (The medical examiner in the case did a routine toxicology screening of Mr. Martin; the results have not been made public.)
Sgt. David Morgenstern, spokesman for the Sanford police, said he could not say much about the case because the investigation was continuing. But he said of the officer who took one photo of Mr. Zimmerman at the scene: “I don’t think that is wrong because subsequent photos can be taken within hours. They might not be as graphic but they still will depict the injuries somebody might have.”
Over all, Chief Lee, whose resignation was not accepted by the City Commission last month, said in an interview that his department’s work was as fair and thorough as possible.
“I am confident about the investigation, and I was satisfied with the amount of evidence and testimony we got in the time we had the case,” he said.
“We were basing our decisions, which were made in concert with the state attorney’s office, on the findings of the investigation at the time,” he added, “and we were abiding by the Florida law that covers self-defense.”
Sorting the Evidence
The Sanford Police Department assigns homicide cases to its five investigators who handle major crimes. Their wide-ranging responsibilities cover everything from sex crimes to carjackings. On the evening that Mr. Martin was fatally shot, the head of the major crimes unit was on vacation. The rotation supervisor on call was a sergeant who works narcotics cases. In all, more than a dozen officers and department superiors were on the scene of Mr. Martin’s killing — which the police said was Sanford’s first homicide of 2012 — including Chief Lee, who joined the department last May.
In the two weeks after the shooting, the police were in regular contact with the office of Mr. Wolfinger, sharing their findings and suspicions with him.
The police conducted a lie-detection procedure, known as voice stress analysis, on Mr. Zimmerman that he passed, and they had him re-enact the encounter with Mr. Martin back at the Retreat the day after the shooting. But the operating belief was that the police did not have enough evidence to establish probable cause for a manslaughter charge and an arrest, according to officials with knowledge of the case.
At one department meeting a few days after Mr. Martin’s death, a representative from Mr. Wolfinger’s office was told about the inconsistencies the police saw in Mr. Zimmerman’s account. The prosecutor told them he understood that the police were trying to build a case against Mr. Zimmerman, though they did not have adequate evidence, according to a law enforcement official. It was decided that more work was needed on the case.
As the national uproar intensified, the Sanford city manager, Norton N. Bonaparte Jr., and Mayor Jeff Triplett were growing eager to have the police send the case to Mr. Wolfinger to get it moving through the justice system. The police did so just over two weeks after Mr. Martin’s death. They included a recommendation that Mr. Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter, a position that one law enforcement official described as “weak,” and that the prosecutor did not act on.
Ms. Corey’s decision to charge Mr. Zimmerman with second-degree murder fueled even more criticism of the police. Mr. Zimmerman has since entered a written plea of not guilty.
Research was provided by Jack Styczynski, Susan C. Beachy, Alain Delaquérière and Sheelagh McNeill.



    • steve
    • hawaii
    NYT Pick
    It is not clear from this story whether the police who questioned Zimmerman even knew about the 911 call and whether they had listened to it. To me, that call says everything--that he was following Martin, that it was suggested that he not do it, and that he still went out in search of Martin. That, plus the fact that he was armed, indicates malicious intent.
    I have an acquaintance who's a big gun nut who insists that when people are carrying, they're "always" on their best behavior and go out of their way to avoid confrontation. Following someone around in the dark is not best behavior, and it certainly is not a way to avoid confrontation.
    • Diego
    • Orlando
    NYT Pick
    The lack of door to door canvassing following Martin's death has always struck me as the biggest embarrassment for the SPD. The fact that a death by gunfire within the walls of a gated community was not reason enough to knock on every door in the condo complex to see if any of the homes was missing a young person is stunning.

    While I do not believe George Zimmerman is racist, I do wonder about the SPD’s priorities when it comes to the death of another black kid. Was it apathy or laziness or worse that lead the SPD to file away Trayvon Martin’s body as a John Doe in the county morgue because they couldn’t be bothered to knock on a few doors?
    • Spencer P
    • New York, NY
    NYT Pick
    Obviously the prosecution believes that it has enough evidence to prove every element of 2nd degree murder. In Florida, the prosecution also has the burden of DISPROVING self-defense claims. So in this case, the prosecution must also believe that it has enough evidence to disprove Zimmerman's self-defense story.

    Unless of course the State has intentionally over-charged Zimmerman, knowing that it doesn't have strong enough evidence and that Zimmerman will therefore walk, but only after quelling the public outrage by staging a phony 2nd degree murder charge. Whether or not this is the case will become plainly obvious during the trial when the prosecution presents its evidence.
    • ed
    • berkeley
    NYT Pick
    Why was a forensic examination of the scene not done? It sounds as though the police didn't even have a crime scene analysis done. Did the medical examiner do an autopsy of Trayvon. Last I heard it was a funeral home that mentioned the state of his body.

    There are so many details that are unknown at this point. How close was the gunshot that killed Trayvon? What angle was the gun fired from? What type of residue or DNA was on either of the men?

    It's clear the police didn't bother to do a thorough investigation because they made assumptions. One would think that these officers were taught to treat every crime scene as though it were a crime scene....

    • kelly
    • washington
    NYT Pick
    Police make mistake in a case. Wow, that is hard to believe. Yet, it happens all the time. This is just something that will cause us to loose focus. If Trayvon was a guest then Zimmerman was the aggressor. Trayvon had every right to be in that neighborhood without being harassed. Zimmerman followed him and now become the aggressor. It doesn't matter if Z was part of the neighborhood watch. He should have followed instruction and just observe and report. Yet he fills the need to get involved because he has a gun. Trayvon should have been afraid There was a strange unidentified man following him. Trayvon was a brave 17 year old to have confronted a stranger. Yet a unarmed 17 year old boy was shot. Z has to go to jail. I am not saying for life but he should get some jail time. Many will say that if Z goes to jail that it will impose on our rights for self protection. Again that is not the focus. Police are limited in approaching stranger unless there is probable cause. Zimmerman is not trained to be a policeman. He was carrying a gun. Trayvon was a young black man in the wrong neighborhood. He did not deserve to die. Z has to serve some jail time. For Trayvon life to have any meaning, a message has to be sent. Neighborhood watch is not for confronting. It is there to observe and report it to the police who are trained in confrontation. If you want to confront then don't carry a gun around. Nobody has the right to shoot an unarmed person even if the shooter is afraid.
    • RCF
    • Portland, OR
    NYT Pick
    Perhaps all officers who work for the Sanford Police Department need to be required to watch Law and Order, NCIS, CSI, Blue Bloods, etc. to learn the basics of police work. Too much of this sounds like the officers haven't had a course in Police Work 101.
    • CP
    • Portland
    NYT Pick
    I'm not even in law enforcement but if I came upon a young man shot dead, you better believe I would have spent a lot more time talking to people and getting evidence and I wouldn't have taken anyone's word at the scene for the fact it was self -defense.
    As far as people saying that Zimmerman's injuries support his defense that he had to defend himself, that correlation cannot be made. His victim was most likely the one trying to defend himself. If someone chased me down with a gun you better believe I would fight for my life, and there is a strong likelihood based on what we know and the fact that Trayvon was aggressively pursued (against police instructions), that might be exactly what happened. Zimmerman being beat up may only confirm the threat that Trayvon felt, having no idea this guy was a neighborhood watchman but only knowing he was pursuing him with a gun. I can't imagine any of us would feel otherwise if we were in his situation.
    Justice, whatever that may be in this case, might never come though because the police from the moment they arrived, didn't take this murder investigation seriously enough.
    • warrior ant press
    • kansas city mo
    NYT Pick
    Bad laws make for tough prosecutions. Remember, all who would assume that justice can only be served if Zimmerman is convicted, that in our system of jurisprudence, the government must prove beyond reasonable doubt that his actions violated the law. Maybe the outcome of this case can be to show that Stand Your Ground laws should be overturned.
    It would be interesting to know the demographics of those who have used Stand Your Ground to justify what hither-to-before, might have been considered 2nd degree murder.
      • nlbonin
      • Louisiana
      I thought second degree required the element of specific intent to commit the crime. Shooting someone you are struggling with does not fit that definition. The prosecution overcharged and now they are hung with it. And what's with Zimmerman being bigger than Martin? The articles I read put Martin over 6 feet and Zimmerman more like 5'5". What I see is people here believing what they want to-damn the evidence, or lack thereof.
      • lou
      • 11219
      The fact that the police did not do thorough door-to-door canvasing implies that they believed Martin was an intruder and not a member of the community.
      • walter Bally
      • vermont
      Zimmerman, guilty until proven innocent.
        • RationalDebate
        • NJ
        I have no idea what happened that night but I am certain that Mr. Zimmerman was charged not because of the evidence but because of racial politics.
      • reed
      • kensington, ca
      My predictions: Mr Zimmerman will be acquitted, or will receive a very light sentence. There will be widespread outrage and possibly unruly behavior by people who believe he should have been convicted or punished more severely. Later we will hear more from Mr Zimmerman, just as we have from Dan White and OJ Simpson.
      • RationalDebate
      • NJ
      Only one living person knows what happened in this case - Mr. Zimmerman. He stated that it was self-defense. While some may doubt this, they were not present and do not have any evidence that Mr. Zimmerman's account is not true.

      I am tired of the armchair experts deciding what Mr. Martin and/or Mr. Zimmerman did or said at the time of this extremely unfortunate confrontation.

      I believe that Mr. Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder due to the publicity that the case received and that the charge makes no sense based on the evidence that the police and prosecutors have at their disposal and Florida law.
      • Leland T. Snyder
      • NJ USA
      This report by the New York Times is incomplete. Let me present a possibility.

      Zimmerman was determined not to let this one get away. After a verbal and physical altercation he drew his gun and quite literally "took control" of the situation at which point Trayvon started screaming for help. Trayvon reached for his cell phone to call for help, Zimmerman mistook it as Trayvon reaching for a gun, and to save his own life (in his minds perceived reality) shot him dead.

      When the police get there they find a flustered 20 something kid who obviously took the law into his own hands and screwed up big time. Not identifying the victim as part of the community there was a suspicion that the victim might have been a "perp", so the police soft peddled the investigation to save the life of a kid that just screwed up.

      The special prosecutor found enough evidence to blow the first defense lawyers defense clear out of the water, the same defense most people are not professing clears Zimmerman of guilt. So Zimmerman not wanting to ride a railroad to hell with these lawyers, dumped them and got a new lawyer. And the new focus of the defense? I Zimmerman did not know he was not armed.

      Wait and see, and ask your self if it turns out to be true, who tried to manipulate you? And who tried to bring you the truth?
      • Jay
      • Cumming GA
      If Zimmerman approached Martin with his gun visible or in his hand, what person in his right mind would ever assault a person who had such an obvious advantage. I believe a sensible person would have done all he could to get away from the person with the gun. I don't believe Martin knew that Zimmerman was in possession of a deadly weapon otherwise he would not have attacked Zimmerman under the circumstances.
        • DP
        • Albuquerque
        All speculation, perhaps it was completely the the other way.
        • DJBF
        • NC
        I believe a sensible person would realize that he could just as easily get shot in the back if he turned his back on someone brandishing a gun for no reason, and just scream for help.
        • pattyo
        • arizona
        what makes you believe that Zimmerman was attacked first? It seems much more likely that Martin was acting in self defense after being followed and approached by Zimmerman who did so after being told not to follow him and who was armed.
      • Golddigger
      • Sydney, Australia
      Truly another sad story of too many guns, and America's long history of racial tensions flowing over into violence and death.

      But what makes me almost laugh in this article is the statement right in the first paragraph that these cops were inexperienced because they "only" handle 3 or 4 murders per year. It begs the questions of how many murder investigations does it take to become professed, and 2) when will the US wake up to the appalling number of lives cut short due to a gun hugging mentality?
      • warrior ant press
      • kansas city mo
      NYT Pick
      Bad laws make for tough prosecutions. Remember, all who would assume that justice can only be served if Zimmerman is convicted, that in our system of jurisprudence, the government must prove beyond reasonable doubt that his actions violated the law. Maybe the outcome of this case can be to show that Stand Your Ground laws should be overturned.
      It would be interesting to know the demographics of those who have used Stand Your Ground to justify what hither-to-before, might have been considered 2nd degree murder.
      • John
      • Georgia
      The real question about the police investigation that remains is that while it took days for the police to get into Martins phone why didn't they get to the friend (who as a girl but not a girlfriend) before Martin's attorney Mr. Crump found here over three weeks later? Why didn't girl tell anyone before Mr. Crump contacted her? I sound like she didn't hear anything that indicated that Martin was in any serious trouble.
      • Jay
      • Cumming GA
      It is not clear in my mind if Zimmerman had his gun in hand when he approached Martin. From the sound of things it appears that the gun was never produced till after the two were on the ground fighting. At what point during the confrontation did Martin become aware that Zimmerman was indeed carrying a weapon? Or am I missing something?
      • Bemused
      • Manhattan
      Reading these comments is like watching the 1950 Kurosawa film, Rochomon. We never will have a clear truth about this crime, but we do know that a young man was killed needlessly at the hands of an aggressor. But the exact nature of the crime has many versions.
      • Jon D.
      • NM
      Chasing, assaulting and murdering a young man whose looks you don't like may be legal in the state of Florida.

      But Mr. Zimmerman is definitely guilty of being a moron.

      Thus, Zimmerman will spend the rest of his life trying to convince himself that he is not a moron and trying to convince everyone other than his family that he is not a moron.

      Glad I will NEVER be in Florida, so hopefully I'll never run into this moron.
      • Charlotte
      • Australia
      Surely Trayvon Martin was permitted to 'Stand his ground' too? In that case, when two people stand their ground under Florida law, is it impossible to prove murder?
      Either way, it seems a person obsessed with crime and potenital offenders, a self-appointed and armed neighbourhood watchman, is allowed to shoot anyone he thinks is a threat, as long as no-one sees the fight he alleges?
      • Jeanette Pontacq
      • Point Reyes Station, CA
      The police ‘errors’ are there to allow the powers-that-be to say that it is impossible to put Zimmerman in jail for willfully killing young Travon Martin. Shame on them and shame on an America that will allow such a travesty of justice.

      Martin was an innocent victim of American racism. Zimmerman was the aggressor. e should be sent to jail for a long time for the murder.
      • Cindy
      • Baltimore, Md.
      We all saw the police station video of Zimmerman just hours after the incident and he had no head nose injury, and no black eyes. This is all on tape. Zimmersman disappears for days so as to fake this alabi and the news media allows this? That is scary.
        • NoWAY
        • California
        That video was later enhanced and showed the injuries. What's more, the medical report on Zimmerman shows he had a broken nose, black eyes, and two cuts on the back of his head. Trayvon Martin's autopsy shows bloodied knuckles. There is also a photo taken at the crime scene by a witness that shows Zimmerman's head bleeding.

        This is the problem with trying a case in the media.
      • Eric
      • New York
      You plant rains, you harvest storms.Watch out for what the police failures resuilt in. You get what you deserve.
      • cork in a Sea of Blue
      • St. Paul, MN
      George was fighting for his life? He killed the dismissed.
      • Ted Morgan
      • Baton Rouge
      My sense of outrage simply increases. Something is wrong with Mr. Zimmerman. He was the aggressor. That he will not serve 25 years to life is sad.
      • Eudoxus
      • Westchester
      In order for Mr. Zimmerman to be acquitted, the jury must regard it as reasonable that Martin started the physical part of their confrontation and that Zimmerman shot Martin because he feared that if he didn't, he himself might end up dead. So far there has been little evidence to contradict the reasonableness of the above. Many people seem to be hung up trying to analyze Zimmerman's actions before the two met up. They are of minor relevance.
        • steve
        • hawaii
        Far too simplistic. This gives free license to anyone who has a gun to go around picking fights with people, and any kind of "physical confrontation"--a shove, a dismissive wave of the hand that brushes up against you--can be met with lethal force.
        Following someone, ignoring police advice, carrying a gun--that all figures into this case.
        • Leland T. Snyder
        • NJ USA
        I'm afraid you are mistaken, the problem with this scenario is that it was created by his first defense attorney. There is a reason Zimmerman is not talking about this but rather saying ... "I did not know he was not armed". When you find in the court case that the "defense" the first defense lawyers presented and the media allowed the majority to believe was the truth was not. Ask your self, who was your friend trying to tell you the truth? and who was trying to mislead you? and remember....

        Forgetfulness is the Allie of propaganda.
        • Lisa Pula
        • Nebraska
        Zimmerman was the initiator of the confrontation by following the other citizen, by not obeying 911 and waiting for policie, and by GETTING OUT OF HIS CAR, and pursuing the other citizen on the street.