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Abortion Provider Dr. Tiller Shot Dead at Wichita Church

Oh my fucking god.  I just learned via Matttbastard on Twitter that Dr. George Tiller was shot dead as he was walking into his Sunday morning church services.

Dr. Tiller was one of the few late-term abortion providers in the country.  He had previously been shot, his clinic burnt down, harassed by ideological anti-abortion attorney generals, and threatened with death countless times.  We’ve written about his many trials and tribulations here numerous times. Still, Dr. Tiller continued to provide abortions to women who desperately needed them, to save their own lives or health, or due to tragic fetal deformities.  He put the health of women above his own life.

And now he is dead.

There is no word on whether or not there is a suspect in custody as of yet.  I’ll update as soon as I know.  I’ve only just heard.  And I’m in total shock.  This is the first time an abortion provider has been murdered in over a decade.  I have friends who work in abortion clinics.  This is terrorism.  And right now, I just don’t have the words.

UPDATE: It looks like a suspect is not in custody.  Those in Wichita area please check out the details and contact police if you see anything:

Police were looking for a blue Ford Taurus with a K-State vanity plate, license number 225 BAB. Police described him as a white male in his 50’s or 60’s, 6’1,” 220 lbs, wearing a white shirt and dark pants.

UPDATE 2: The suspect is in custody, though he has not yet been named.  Dr. Tiller’s family has also released a statement.

War Crimes

Yeah, we commit them in secret prisons.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday made public detailed memos describing brutal interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency, as President Obama sought to reassure the agency that the C.I.A. operatives involved would not be prosecuted.

In dozens of pages of dispassionate legal prose, the methods approved by the Bush administration for extracting information from senior operatives of Al Qaeda are spelled out in careful detail — like keeping detainees awake for up to 11 straight days, placing them in a dark, cramped box or putting insects into the box to exploit their fears.

The interrogation methods were authorized beginning in 2002, and some were used as late as 2005 in the C.I.A.’s secret overseas prisons. The techniques were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and the documents released Thursday afternoon were the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the program.

Some senior Obama administration officials, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have labeled one of the 14 approved techniques, waterboarding, illegal torture. The United States prosecuted some Japanese interrogators at war crimes trials after World War II for

Together, the four memos give an extraordinarily detailed account of the C.I.A.’s methods and the Justice Department’s long struggle, in the face of graphic descriptions of brutal tactics, to square them with international and domestic law. Passages describing forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls, prolonged sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees alternate with elaborate legal arguments concerning the international Convention Against Torture.

You can read the memos here. It’s really disturbing stuff, and it’s quite honestly humiliating — the United States’ status as some sort of moral beacon faded long ago (if it ever existed), but certainly we’re supposed to be better than this. And while I’m not a big fan of punitive punishment, the lack of accountability here is startling:

Within minutes of the release of the memos, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that the memos illustrated the need for his proposed independent commission of inquiry, which would offer immunity in return for candid testimony.

Mr. Obama condemned what he called a “dark and painful chapter in our history” and said that the interrogation techniques would never be used again. But he also repeated his opposition to a lengthy inquiry into the program, saying that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

A dark chapter in our history? The past? Sure, it is “past” insofar as four years ago is “the past,” but come on now — it’s hardly so far back in history that we should close the book on it and move on. It just happened. Many of the people who authorized and implemented these procedures are still in positions of power; none of them, as far as I know, have had to pay any penance for the crimes they committed or encouraged.

Of course, it’s not so easy to pinpoint exactly who should be paying penance, and for what. The people who actually carried out the torture did so under orders from above; they were told that they had the legal go-ahead. The lawyers who wrote the memos certainly came to some reprehensible conclusions, but they weren’t the policy-makers or the order-givers, even if they knew that their recommendations would translate into policy. I personally believe that the buck stops at the highest levels of power — clearly the higher-ups in the Bush administration not only knew what was going on, but pushed their legal experts to come to these conclusions. In doing so, they put American citizens in legally precarious situations — for all their America-loving talk, they encouraged CIA operatives to commit war crimes, and opened all of those people up to potential prosecution. It doesn’t look like the CIA officers are going to be prosecuted, but they were put in a very troublesome situation — and many of them did very troublesome things.

Mr. Obama said that C.I.A. officers who were acting on the Justice Department’s legal advice would not be prosecuted, but he left open the possibility that anyone who acted without legal authorization could still face criminal penalties. He did not address whether lawyers who authorized the use of the interrogation techniques should face some kind of penalty.

I hope some sort of investigation is launched, but I also hope that we don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. I obviously don’t have a ton of sympathy for torturers, but I’m also not sure that they guy working at a prison in Aghanistan, who’s being told by everyone from the President of the United States on down to use “harsh” techniques in order to get information from detainees, and who is operating under significant personal stress in an organization that relies heavily on hierarchy, is the person who should be held ultimately accountable. I would much rather see the people who were in positions of real power and authority have to answer for this.

The New York Times offers a round-up of blog and op/ed opinionson the torture memos. It’s well worth a read.

Maybe you wouldn’t be considered a “radical right-wing extremist” if you stopped threatening to blow stuff up. Also if you stopped actually blowing stuff up.

Michelle Malkin is in a huff over the fact that Homeland Security issued a warning to watch out for right-wing extremists. They specifically mentioned anti-abortion and anti-immigration activists, but Malkin has interpreted the warning to be All About Her. She ends her piece with, “We are all rightwing extremists now.”

So here’s a hint if you don’t want to be seen as extremist: Stop blowing shit up, terrorizing people you don’t agree with and committing murder. Stop with the vigilante policing and stop working neo-Nazi and other hate-based organizations. Stop threatening to secede because you don’t like paying taxes. And stop comparing yourselves to violent terrorists as if that were a good thing:

The coming revolution is akin to “Fight Club,” the 1999 film that follows the struggles of day to day life for a regular guy who starts an underground fight club as radical and not terribly productive psychotherapy.

As Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, says in the movie, “Fight Club was the beginning, now it’s moved out of the basement, it’s called Project Mayhem.”

That quote is from Republican political operative and former Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) Matt Mackowiak, about tax day “teabagging” parties. And “Project Mayhem” was the shift of fight club into a terrorist cell that blew up banks.

But yes, the federal government is just ridiculous to believe there may be a domestic terrorism problem from groups that glorify, threaten and actually commit domestic terrorism.

New Jersey Mayor Steps Down After Racist Threats

This clip from MSNBC tells us about Charles Tyson, the ex-mayor of South Harrison Township in New Jersey.  Tyson was the first ever black mayor of the town — and he recently stepped down due to racist harassment and threats.

My “favorite” part of the video is where white supremacist Bill White’s lawyer claims that White’s communications fall under free speech, and were not in any way threating.  That sounds great, until you look at the actual letter that was allegedly sent to Tyson (taken from a white supremacist website where I’m not linking).  It’s below the jump, as it could be very upsetting.

Read More…Read More…

Israel Strikes Gaza Strip


As of writing, 200 have been confirmed dead and 600 injured, including children.

Waves of Israeli aircraft swooped over the Gaza Strip on Saturday, firing missiles at Hamas’s security headquarters and killing more than 200 people, bringing the highest death toll in Gaza in years in a crushing response to rocket fire by Hamas against Israeli towns.

At least 140 Palestinians were killed and scores more wounded, according to the head of emergency services at the Gaza Ministry of Health

After the initial airstrikes, which also wounded about 600 Palestinians, dozens of rockets struck southern Israel. Thousands of Israelis hurried into bomb shelters amid the hail of rockets, including some longer-range models that reached farther north than ever before. One Israeli man was killed in the town of Netivot and four were wounded, one seriously.

A military operation against Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, had been forecast and demanded by Israeli officials for weeks, ever since a rocky cease-fire between Israel and Hamas broke down completely in early November and rocket attacks began in large numbers against Israel. Still, there was a shocking quality to Saturday’s attacks, in broad daylight on about 100 sites, as police cadets were graduating, women were shopping at the outdoor market and children were emerging from school.

The center of Gaza City instantly became a scene of chaotic horror, with rubble everywhere, sirens wailing, and women shrieking as dozens of mutilated bodies were laid out on the pavement and in the lobby of Shifa Hospital so that family members could identify them. The vast majority of those killed were Hamas police officers and security men, including two senior commanders, but the dead included several construction workers and at least two children in school uniforms.

According to HuffPo, parents are still looking for their children — who were leaving school as the air strikes began — and the hospitals cannot cope with the casualties.  The Electronic Intifada has info on a lack of food in Gaza thanks to the sanctions, and an additional editorial on Israel’s violence and how it ought to spurn action. (Thanks to BFP for these links via Twitter.)

The United Nations, along with Russia, Egypt and “numerous governments in Western Europe,” has called on Israel to stop.  And our government?  Oh, Bush has merely urged them to try harder to not kill civilians.

This is fucked up.  That’s all I’m going to say.  And my thoughts are with the Palestinians living in Gaza.

The Massacre at École Polytechnique

Before this moment, I knew extremely little of the Montreal Massacre (also known as the massacre at École Polytechnique), the anniversary of which is today. Now, thanks to Renee, I know a little bit more:

To ensure that there was no confusion as to why he felt the need to enter École Polytechnique and massacre 14 women, Marc Lépine left behind a detailed three page letter in which he blamed feminists for being “so opportunistic they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men through the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can”. He considered himself to be “rational” and therefore felt his rage against feminists was justified. He went on to state in his suicide note,” why persevere to exist if it is only to please the government. Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men.” Lépine was so angry at the loss of unearned male privilege due to the advances of feminism; his letter also included a list of nineteen other women that he also wished to see dead.

After such a horrible event there were many that felt that this terrible act of violence should be looked upon as the actions of a sole mad man, who had lost the capacity to reason. While it might be comforting to look at this as a singular incident, to do so would mean ignoring the degree of violence that Canadian women live with on a daily basis.

[. . .]

On that cold winter day Lépine’s victims were just ordinary women working on getting an education. There was nothing special, or unique about any one of them. They became targets of Lépine’s rage for having the audacity to attempt to receive an education. Whatever excuse that is proffered, male violence against women exists to support patriarchy.

Though his fourteen victims now lie silent in a cold grave, their deaths remind all women just how vulnerable we are in a world that has chosen to value one sex above another. We reify this in every single institution from education to government. Each December 6th as we stop to remember our fallen sisters we are reminded of just how far we still have to go.

Go learn.

cross-posted at The Curvature

Good News on Guantanamo

A judge had ordered five detainees freed from the prison.

The case, involving six Algerians detained in Bosnia in 2001, was an important test of the Bush administration’s detention policies, which critics have long argued swept up innocent men and low-level foot soldiers along with high-level and hardened terrorists.

The hearings for the Algerian men, in which all evidence was heard in proceedings closed to the public, were the first in which the Department of Justice presented its full justification for holding specific detainees since the Supreme Court ruled in June that Guantánamo detainees have a constitutional right to contest their imprisonment in habeas corpus suits.

Ruling from the bench, Judge Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington said that the information gathered on the men had been sufficient to hold them for intelligence purposes, but was not strong enough in court.

“To rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation,” he said. He directed that the five men be released “forthwith” and urged the government not to appeal.

Judge Leon, an appointee of the first President Bush, had been expected to be sympathetic to the government.

The day Guantanamo is closed and we return to the Constitution and rule of law cannot come soon enough.