2009 - %3, June

Kansas Abortion Stories and George Tiller Video

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 1:46 PM EDT

If you've never known a family who made the gutwrenching decision to abort or bring to term a fetus with physical anomalies "incompatible with life," you need to read the first person accounts on the website A Heartbreaking Choice. These are the kinds of pregnancies Kansas doctor George Tiller ended before he was murdered at church on Sunday.

I in no way mean to denigrate women who choose to carry to term babies who won't live long outside the womb. But I have to wonder, can Bill O'Reilly and his fellow anti-abortion hate mongers seriously read the passage below by an Andrew Sullivan reader and tell me this is the only option women should have?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Pro-Lifer Links Movement to MLK, Damns Slain Abortion Doc

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 1:38 PM EDT

What does the pro-life movement have in common with the '60s-era civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King?

According to Randall Terry—the fiery pro-lifer who founded the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue—they're both "peaceful" crusades. At a press conference on Monday at the National Press Club, Terry responded to criticism that the pro-life movement's highly charged rhetoric was partly responsible for the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the Wichita abortion provider shot dead at his church on Sunday morning. The suspect in the murder, Scott Roeder, reportedly had ties to Operation Rescue.

"We train [pro-life activists] to be peaceful and nonviolent, just like Dr. King trained people in the civil rights movement," Terry said. Terry said Roeder "wasn't working with us" before adding: "Pro-life leaders and the pro-life movement are not responsible for George Tiller's death. George Tiller was a mass murderer and, horrifically, he reaped what he sowed."

Asked to clarify, Terry responded, "He sowed death, and then he reaped death in a horrifying way."

Terry said that he held the press conference as a way to signal to pro-lifers that they "must not lose focus"—that is, dial down their rhetoric—in the wake of the murder of Dr. Tiller, one of the few doctors in the US who provided late-term abortions, and who was a frequent target of protests by pro-lifers.

In fact, the prospect that pro-lifers might tone down their campaign against abortion seemed to annoy Terry more than the shooting itself. "Tiller's death poses a great problem for the pro-life movement because there are many political leaders who are going to be intimidated, and keep saying 'Oh, we're peaceful, we're peaceful, we won't use highly-charged rhetoric," Terry said. "That's a problem."

Terry repeatedly called Tiller a "mass murderer" who died with "blood on his hands." That's probably not how Martin Luther King would have responded to the killing. Asked if those kinds of remarks could cause some to link Terry and his followers to violence, Terry responded, "We run that risk, but that is the cost of saying the truth."

Dick Cheney Presents a Journalism Award

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 1:21 PM EDT

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is speaking at the Gerald R Ford Foundation annual journalism awards ceremony today. He'll be taking questions afterwards. One question I would suggest: Why is Dick Cheney giving a journalism award? Is it because of his great respect for the press?  This is up there with this story.

Sotomayor's Record on Race

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 1:13 PM EDT

Is Sonia Sotomayor a bitter closet racist unable to control deep-rooted feelings of race solidarity in her judicial opinions?  Of course not.  Frankly, I feel stupid for even lowering myself to blog about this idiocy.

But just in case you need some expert opinion on this, Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSBlog has reviewed Sotomayor's entire canon of race-related opinions.  The post isn't very long, and his conclusion is clear:

In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.)  She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.

Absurd, yes.  But that won't stop the screamers.  Nothing ever does.

Chart of the Day

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 12:38 PM EDT

This isn't really big news or anything, but Gallup's latest poll shows just how big a hole the Republican Party has dug itself into: they now have virtually no appeal to anyone non-white.  They're almost exclusively a party of white men and women, which explains why their base has convinced them to haul out racial fears as their main line of attack against Sonia Sotomayor.  I just hope they aren't surprised when their meager 11% non-white base declines even further after this is all over.

War and Peace

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 12:24 PM EDT

Matt Yglesias makes a point that's bugged me for a long time too:

Nobody takes the views of someone who’s a pacifist in general seriously on a specific question of war and peace. But if you’re Bill Kristol, and every time an issue comes up your idea is that we should launch a war, then you get to [be] a Washington Post columnist and a constant TV presence. Here he is with Brit Hume calling for “targeted air strikes” against North Korean missiles:

Why is this kind of stuff taken seriously?  Everyone knows perfectly well why we haven't launched any kind of attack on North Korea: they have lots of troops and lots of missiles and could destroy Seoul and kill millions of people if they decided to.  Kristol knows this perfectly well.  But his endless knee jerk talk of military force as the answer to all problems is given a respectful hearing anyway.  Can't we just put a stuffed doll with a tape recording in his chair instead?  It would save Fox some money and the analysis would be the same.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Agent Orange: Treatment For Vets Still Lagging, Says Report

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 11:25 AM EDT

The Ford Foundation will release a report Tuesday calling for continued study of the environmental and health effects of Agent Orange, as well as for stepped-up diagnosis and treatment of US veterans exposed to it. Used as a defoliant in Vietnam to destroy vegetation used as food and cover for the Viet Cong, the dioixn--named for the orange stripe on its label--has been the subject of controversy ever since its first use in 1962. Over the ensuing ten years of hard combat, some 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides were sprayed over six million acres of Vietnamese jungle. (See the box below for a selection of Mother Jones' earlier coverage of Agent Orange and the federal government's history of inadequate response to veterans' complaints.)

Agent Orange's widespread use in Vietnam was not the only instance in which US soldiers were exposed to harmful chemicals without a clear understanding of the risks; see my recent piece about a group of vets suing the federal government for their unwitting treatment as guineau pigs during US Army and CIA chemical weapons experiments at Edgewood. But in terms of scale, Agent Orange is without parallel. Hundreds of thousands of US troops and many millions of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were exposed . The precise number of those placed in danger will never be known, nor will the number who have since died from health complications.

The aim of the Ford Foundation's report is to take a look at what's been done so far in terms of diagnosis and treatment of US vets (not as much as should have been) and to urge expanded care, not only for vets but for their children, many of whom now appear to be suffering next-generation effects from their parents' toxic exposures.

Larry Summers is Tired of All These Meetings

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 10:57 AM EDT

Is Larry Summers spending too much time out at the clubs on work nights? It certainly seems that way. Back in April Summers, President Barack Obama's top economic adviser, was caught napping during a meeting on regulating the credit card industry. Last week, Summers was at it again, refusing to lose his right to snooze during a hurricane preparedness meeting. In a true stroke of genius, the White House has posted the latest photo of sleepy Larry on its website, so we can reproduce it for you here. (That's him to the right of the big chair that takes up most of the foreground.) Maybe the publicity is Obama's way of giving Summers a bit of a nudge?

(h/t Dealbreaker)

Sotomayor Judges Race Cases Just Like a White Guy

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 10:24 AM EDT

Republicans may have decided to run off the rails and make race the focus of their attacks on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, but they are going to have to dig deep to find some evidence to support their claims that she would be biased in favor minority plaintiffs appearing before her.  Tom Goldstein over at Scotusblog, one of the nation's most kick-ass  Supreme Court lawyers and bloggers, has studied every single one of Sotomayor's opinions that are even remotely connected to a racial issue. And what did he find?

Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions.  Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous.  (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.)  Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge. 

In the 75 cases where Sotomayor sat on a panel of judges that rejected a discrimination claim, Sotomayor dissented a whopping two times. None of this is much of a surprise. Plaintiffs in federal employment discrimination cases almost always get slaughtered, and Sotomayor's presence on the 2nd Circuit certainly doesn't seem to have helped their cause much. If nothing else, Goldstein's data ought to put to rest any GOP charges that Sotomayor is a radical activist looking to somehow tilt the rink because of her Puerto Rican heritage. At least when it comes to discrimination claims, Sotomayor's work is virtually indistinguishable from all the other white guys she works with.

Obama, the Abu Ghraib Rape Photos, and the Press

| Mon Jun. 1, 2009 9:36 AM EDT

It's become abundantly clear since last week that Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, was right to criticize the British newspaper the Telegraph for its story claiming that torture photos President Barack Obama is refusing to release "show rape." General Antonio Taguba, the Telegraph's main source for its story, has since told Salon's Mark Benjamin that he was quoted out of context; he hasn't seen the specific photos Obama is withholding. It turns out Taguba was talking about a different set of images, a number of which have already been published by Salon and officially released by the government, that Taguba saw while he was investigating abuses at Abu Ghraib in 2004.

While Gibbs' criticism of the Telegraph in this specific instance was certainly warranted, it's not at all clear that Taguba's clarification will make things any easier for the White House.