Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tiller Murder: Ann Coulter's happy day?

cross-posted from The Huffington Post

The killing of George Tiller, a doctor who performed late-term abortions, will likely be attributed to some lone and deranged individual, acting on his or her own. (As I write, the suspect remains at large.) Indeed, Operation Rescue, the hold-no-prisoners anti-abortion group, issued an immediate statement from Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, decrying Tiller's shooting as "a cowardly act."

In fact, the hands are many in the death of George Tiller, some more directly than others. Take Ann Coulter, for example. I watched her describe, to a church full of right-wing activists, abortion-clinic doctors and health care personnel who were murdered as either having been shot, "...or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure performed on them with a rifle." And she's still out there today, spewing the same bile with violent force.

Several weeks ago, President Barack Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame University spurred controversy when anti-abortion activists pressed the Catholic university to withdraw its invitation to the pro-choice president. Coulter responded with the suggestion that for next year's ceremony, "Notre Dame have an abortionist perform an abortion live on stage? They could have a partial-birth abortion for the advanced degrees."

As if that wasn't enough, Coulter added this:

Being such a prestigious institution, Notre Dame could probably get famed partial-birth abortion practitioner George Tiller to do the demonstration at next year's graduation. Obama could help -- inasmuch as Tiller the abortionist is a close friend of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
George Tiller, M.D., was unlikely national figure, but to the religious right, he was Enemy Number One.

Close watchers of national news may have known the name of George Tiller from the extraordinary actions of former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who, three years ago subpoenaed from Tiller's clinic the records of hundreds of women who had undergone abortion procedures there. Kline, a frequent speaker at religious-right gatherings, claimed he needed the records for an investigation as to whether Tiller was following the law, but many in the reproductive health community saw Kline's actions as an attempt to intimidate women who were considering undergoing late-term abortions. Kline's case against Tiller was dismissed in 2006, after Kansas voters booted the AG from office.

Tiller's name became part of inside-the-Beltway parlance with the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to head the Department of Health and Human Services, when campaign contributions from Tiller and his associates became a bone of contention in her confirmation process. (She has since been confirmed, and is now HHS secretary.) Sometimes, it seems, having friends in high places only increases one's danger.

So my question to Ann Coulter is: Did George Tiller have "a procedure performed on him by a rifle"? Did he simply get his just desserts?

If the murderer was not a follower of Coulter's, he certainly acted from the sort of hateful sentiment she disseminates in popular and right-wing media.

Consider this comment left by a reader of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's posting of Associated Press coverage of the Tiller murder:
Although I would never do something like this, he got what was coming to him. Now he needs to answer to God for the thousands of innocent babies he has murdered.
Sounds like one of Annie's kids to me.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Half a loaf from California Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court has essentially ratified Proposition 8, the ballot measure that nullified an earlier court decision legalizing marriage rights for LGBT folks. Yet Californians already married will be permitted to remain so, regardless of the gender mix of their marriages.

One suspects that the court could not agree on constitutional grounds for overturning the expressed "will of the people". Yet the legitimizing of marriages already performed calls constitutional questions of its own. The closeness of the Prop 8 vote suggests another electoral battle to come. From the Los Angeles Times

Prop. 8 upheld by California Supreme Court:

By Maura Dolan
10:08 AM PDT, May 26, 2009

Reporting from San Francisco -- The California Supreme Court today upheld Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage but also ruled that gay couples who wed before the election will continue to be married under state law.

The decision virtually ensures another fight at the ballot box over marriage rights for gays. Gay rights activists say they may ask voters to repeal the marriage ban as early as next year, and opponents have pledged to fight any such effort. Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the vote.

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Sotomayor Nomination: Obama's Wedge Politics

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is stunning on many levels: She's the third woman to serve on the high court, the first of Latino descent and the first to grow up in public housing.

On her own merits, Sotomayor is a deserving nominee. Yet in his choice of Sotomayor, Obama has also made a brilliant tactical move -- one that not only shores up his standing with the Latino community and the women's rights community, but also serves to further divide the beleaguered Republican Party.

In discussions of this nomination, much will be said about the debt Obama owes to the Latino community for his 2008 electoral victory. As Politico's Ben Smith recently wrote:

[McCain] got 31 percent of the Latino vote to the 44 percent that George W. Bush took in 2004, according to exit polls. And it was enough to put much of the West and Southwest out of reach for the Republican Party, to give Florida to the Democrats and to hand Barack Obama the presidency.
The flip side of of that fact is the migration of Latino voters away from the Republican Party, largely due to the party's capitulation to the darkest inclinations of its base with regard to immigration policy.

Republican Senate leaders already have even conservative Latino figures feeling disrespected by throwing their early support to Florida governor Charlie Crist even before the primary, where his opposition is expected to be a popular and youthful Cuban-American, Marco Rubio, who was Florida's youngest House Speaker.

Can Republican senators really afford to oppose Sonia Sotomayor's nomination without further bleeding the votes of Latinos? Probably not. Yet, the hard right wing, which is likely to vilify Sotomayor based on a controversial decision she made in a difficult affirmative action case, will likely demand that GOP leaders oppose Sotomayor outright.

For years, the Democratic Party lay victim to the wedge politics practiced by the Republican Party, and seemed constitutionally incapable of fighting back on those terms. President Obama has no such reticence. Let the battle begin.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The world is on fire -- but Pakistan's civil war is our problem

Did you know, mes amis, that Pakistan is now officially in the throes of a civil war? Out of the Swat Valley, where Pakistan's government had tried to compromise with the ascendant Taliban, now flow some 1.3 million refugees who flee a full-scale war between the two forces.

Why should you care? First off, many Pakistanis believe that the government's offensive in Swat was taken at the behest of the U.S. Given the toll on the civilian population, that can't be a helpful perception.

Then, of course, there's the matter of Pakistan, a nuclear power, flirting with chaos.

Next up -- Afghanistan. In truth, these are not separate problems. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the same problem for the U.S., and in many ways, problems of out government's making. Even if you only care about domestic politics, you had best turn your attention to this volatile region, for this mess really could ruin everything for Obama (and the rest of us).

Your blogstress has a new essay at The Guardian that addresses the apparent lack of interest in our nation's fate abroad vis-a-vis this troubling turn of events. Here's a snip:

David Miliband Meets the Bloggers

It was billed as a newfangled sort of event: a news conference between US bloggers and Britain's blogging foreign secretary at the New America Foundation, a Washington DC think tank.

There was plenty for David Miliband to talk about on Tuesday, especially given the fierce escalation of tensions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the UK has a close alliance with the US, in a week that saw a White House meeting with the presidents of those smouldering south Asian nations, which share a border drawn a century ago by a British mapmaker.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Whither Afghanistan?

When no less a sage than George McGovern warns the president against further involvement in Afghanistan, it behooves one to listen. Above, in an interview with the former 1972 Democratic presidential candidate -- who won that distinction for his opposition to the war in Viet Nam -- the American News Project's Harry Hanbury and Mike Fritz find McGovern warning President Obama of a possible fate like Lyndon Johnson's -- one in which a quagmire of a war puts an end to many grand social programs.

Still, your blogstress remains unconvinced that the the analogy is apt. For one, America was in no danger because of the Vietnamese civil war, in which we intervened. On the other hand, the al Qaeda attack on American soil was partly the result of the U.S. having walked away from Afghanistan in its hour of need just after its warlords so kindly won the Cold War for us. (No, Ronald Reagan did not win the Cold War; guys in turbans on horseback with U.S. Stinger missiles on their shoulders did. All it took was our fortification of a Pakistani tyrant, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, who ran the weapons for us even as he jailed Pakistani women for the crime of having been raped.) Your écrivaine is not so sure that abandoning Afghanistan now is the moral thing to do.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Will Obama appoint a woman to the Supreme Court?

With last night's news of the pending departure of Justice David Souter from the bench, all bets seem to be placed on a female replacement. The one woman on the Court today, the venerable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is elderly and suffering from colon cancer. NPR's Nina Totenberg this morning ran through a list of possible contenders:

Possible nominees who have been mentioned as being on a theoretical short list include Elena Kagan, the current solicitor general who represents the government before the Supreme Court; Sonia Sotomayor, a Hispanic judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and Diane Wood, a federal judge in Chicago who taught at the University of Chicago at the same time future President Barack Obama was teaching constitutional law there.
UPDATE: Garance Franke-Ruta has more on this; women's group pushing hard.

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