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42 posts from May 2009

May 31, 2009

Abortion crusader Dr. George Tiller murdered in church

Dr. George Tiller was murdered in church today. Tiller was one of only a handful of physicians in America who perform late-term abortions. He survived an assassination attempt in 1993 and returned to his practice.

Amanda Marcotte has a touching post on George Tiller's life of service:

Dr. Tiller was a brave man and a real hero.  He was already shot once in 1993, but despite the ongoing threat of violence, he continued to work diligently to provide abortion services to women who are often in the worst possible situation, facing down the termination of a pregnancy that was being eagerly planned for, until things went terribly wrong. If a woman has a later term therapeutic abortion---be it because it was a wanted pregnancy, she has serious mental health issues, or she is a child victim of rape---it’s rarely easy on her mentally or physically.  Dr. Tiller’s clinic was renowned for the thoughtful patient support to help women get through what is a very difficult time---counseling, support groups, religious services for the lost baby if you desire.

Dr. Tiller gave his life for women's health and freedom. He must have known that the anti-abortion assasins would strike again. Tiller probably could have saved himself by getting out of the business--a lot of doctors do--but he refused to give in to terrorism.  His legacy will live on.

Update: KWCH-12 is reporting that the police have apprehended a suspected shooter [HT: Jezebel]

The Uighurs are welcome in my neighborhood

The Obama administration, disappointingly, filed a petition to bar from the United States the 17 Uighurs the U.S.--by its own admission--wrongfully imprisoned at Guantanamo.

These are innocent men. We should be talking about multi-million-dollar compensation packages for these guys, given that we've put them through hell and effectively locked them out of their homeland for life.

Instead of rectifying this national disgrace, the Obama administration is compounding the felony by making the mere stigma of having been locked up at Guantanamo a one-way ticket to permanent exile.

They can't go back to China because the Chinese will execute them, and no other country wants to take them. So, they're still locked up at Guantanamo.

Surely a modified version of the Pottery Barn rule applies in this case: We mistakenly kidnapped them, imprisoned them without trail, and probably tortured them, we keep them.

The Obama administration needs to stop governing from fear and do the right thing.

May 30, 2009

Song from the Uproar

Abby, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.


Scene from a performance I shot last night at Galapagos Art Space, Song from the Uproar.

May 28, 2009

Withdrawal study: Ur doin' it wrong

The conventional wisdom is that withdrawal is to contraception what bulimia is to weight-loss. Both methods have a certain mechanical plausibility, but no responsible physician would recommend either one.

Sex educators tend to regard withdrawal less as a form of contraception and more as an excuse not to use birth control. A researcher from the Guttmacher Institute and her co-authors are urging sex educators to reconsider, leading off a recent paper in the journal Contraception with the following bold hypothesis: "[Withdrawal] might more aptly be referred to as a method that is almost as effective as the male condom." (.pdf)

In the large print, the paper says the typical use failure rate for withdrawal is 18%. That sounds pretty good juxtaposed with the 17% typical use failure they cite for condoms. A footnote adds some additional context: "Notably, the typical-use failure rate for withdrawal is more variable, ranging from 14%-24%, compared to a confidence interval of 15%-21% for condoms." 

Continue reading "Withdrawal study: Ur doin' it wrong" »

Abu Ghraib photos show rape, U.S. general says (updated)

Standard operating procedure...

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. [Telegraph]

Or, at least we'll be forced to assume that it was standard operating procedure unless the United States finds the courage to fully investigate these crimes and hold all the perpetrators and their enablers accountable.

Until we do that, we're treating rape and torture as part of the job. If goverment really believes that "a few bad apples" were responsible for the savagery, then it has a moral obligation to investigate and clear the names of all those who served honorably.

Update: Mark Benjamin of Salon interviewed Gen. Taguba after the Telegraph story ran. The Telegraph reported that Gen Taguba was talking about the 44 photographs that the Obama administration doesn't want to release to the ACLU. But Taguba told Benjamin that he was describing pictures reviewed as part of his Abu Ghraib investigation, he denied having seen the final 44.

May 27, 2009

Army chief says U.S. could be in Iraq after 2012

Obama has pledged to get most U.S. troops out of Iraq by 2012, in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement, but the army chief of staff says the military is planning to keep troops in Iraq for a decade:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States could have fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, the top Army officer said, even though a signed agreement requires all U.S. forces to be out of Iraq by 2012.

Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, said Tuesday his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained U.S. commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.

"Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction," Casey said. "They fundamentally will change how the Army works." [AP]

(The AP article isn't quite right. The SOFA allows for significant numbers of U.S. troops to stay on in an "advisory capacity" after the official deadline.)

Now, just because the military has a plan for something doesn't mean that outcome is considered especially likely. They have staffs of experts who do nothing but plan for all kinds of far-fetched scenarios, just in case.  But Casey's talking as if he actually expects the U.S. to be in Iraq for another decade:

Casey said several times that he wasn't the person making policy, but the military was preparing to have a fighting force deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come. Casey said his planning envisions 10 combat brigades plus command and support forces committed to the two wars.

When asked whether the Army had any measurement for knowing how big it should be, Casey responded, "How about the reality scenario?"

The reality scenario, he said, must take into account that "we're going to have 10 Army and Marine units deployed for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Casey doesn't make the policy.  So, ultimately, this is just one person's prediction--or one person's preferred outcome, as the case may be.

Casey's remarks are more evidence that we shouldn't just assume that the occupation of Iraq will end on the timetable we've been lead to expect, SOFA or no SOFA.

May 26, 2009

Pentagon backs closing Guantanamo

Don't look now, but those wacky pinko terror-lovers at the Pentagon want to close Guantanamo.

The Senators who voted to deny Obama the funds he requested to close Guantanamo are guilty of epic bipartisan stupidity.

Of course the United States can safely hold terror suspects in its Supermax prisons. There are a couple hundred terrorists in our jails right now, from the Blind Sheik to the Unabomber.

If there's one thing we're good at in America, it's incarceration.

May 25, 2009

Norm Costa, Ethics Detective

Unlawful, originally uploaded by It'sGreg.

What happens when a mental health professional becomes a predator? Who suffers? Who is responsible? Is Justice, for perpetrator or victim, something real or abstract? Upon whose shoulders is the burden of justice?

Find out, in the next exciting installment of Norm Costa, Ethics Detective....

Meet the mole

Meet the government mole who enticed four local thugs into a sting operation, thinking they were going to bomb synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military aircraft.

May 23, 2009

L.A. police union wants changes at San Diego paper

The next time someone holds up established newspaper corporations as bastions of structural independence compared to partisan media, I'll point them to this story:

The union representing Los Angeles police officers is pressuring the owner of San Diego’s main newspaper to change the paper’s editorial stance on labor issues or to fire its editorial writers.

The  feud is rooted in the recent purchase of the San Diego Union-Tribune by Platinum Equity, a private Beverly Hills firm.

Platinum relies on a $30-million investment from the pension fund of Los Angeles police officers and fire fighters, along with large sums from other public-employee pension systems around the state, to help fund its acquisitions of companies. As League President Paul M. Weber views it, that makes the League part owner in the flagging Tribune and League officials are none to happy with the paper’s consistent position that San Diego lawmakers should cut back on salaries and benefits for public employees in order to help close gaping budget deficits.

There's been a lot of talk lately about how to fund print reporting now that so many newspaper companies are going out of business. Two of the most popular alternative proposals are philanthropic/non-profit journalism and government funding. These options have been criticized as undercutting the independence of the media. If a foundation funds a newspaper, the news will reflect the agenda of the funders. There are ways to insulate government-funded media from political pressure, but the risk of bias can't be dismissed entirely.

The police union story illustrates certain structural biases in the current business model. If a paper is a corporation, its investors may have ideological as well as financial agendas.

The paper hasn't caved yet, and it's not clear whether the police union will carry the day--probably not this time, given the optics of firing op/ed writers after all this publicity. Still, it's worth thinking about how similar dynamics may be subtly or dramatically influencing coverage at papers around the country.

[HT: Boing Boing]