Right Wing Terrorism Takes Life In Kansas

An act of terrorism in Wichita, Kansas has lead to the murder of Dr. George Tiller. A suspect has been apprehended. Tiller has been a target of anti-abortion rights extremists for being a rare doctor who performs late term abortion in cases where the mother’s life is threatened. Besides obviously taking an extremist to commit murder, it is also an extremist view to deny a woman an abortion when needed to save her life.  Such late term abortions, despite all the noise made by the right, are very rare and few doctors perform the procedure.

In addition to the current act of terrorism, Tiller’s clinic has been bombed in the past and he was shot in both arms in 1993.

Before we speak of a war on terror abroad we need to be more concerned with right wing terrorism in this country. Ironically many who support the misguided Bush administration’s war on terror are also responsible for inciting domestic terrorism, such as Bill O’Reilly.

Many on the right share in the extremism of the terrorist who shot Tiller and many are even applauding his action.  In case their comments should be taken down, Balloon Juice has archived them.  Christian News Wire issued a release saying, “Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue states, ‘George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God.'” Other conservatives do realize that “Whoever murdered George Tiller has done a gravely wicked thing.”

Last Survivor Of The Titanic Dies at 97


Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the Titanic, has died at age 97. She was nine weeks old when it sank, with her father among those who died. She is shown above being held by her mother a few weeks after the Titanic sank.

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SciFi Weekend: The Doctor’s Next Companion; Star Trek Sex Symbol; Summer Glau and Dollhouse


The identity of the next companion when Doctor Who resumes under Matt Smith has been announced. Karen Gillan, who previously appeared in the fourth season episode The Fires of Pompeii as one of the Soothsayers, has been given the role. It isn’t unusual for actors to make guest appearances on the show and wind up with other roles in the future. This could be a more difficult transition as this will be the first time since the show returned that both The Doctor and his main companion have changed at the same time. When Christopher Eccleston left, Billy Piper remained as his The Doctor’s companion, and when Piper left the show still had David Tennant returning.


American audiences will soon be able to see this year’s Doctor Who specials (assuming they have not already downloaded them). BBC America has outbid the SciFi channel for the rights to the show, including this year’s specials.  They will begin airing them on June 27 with the Christmas special, The Next Doctor. The Easter special, Planet of the Dead, will air in July. The specials planned to air on the BBC later this year will air on BBC America in late 2009 and early in 2010. BBC America is also showing a couple of other genre shows this summer, Being Human and Survivors.

We are also going to have more of David Tennant than first expected when he decided to leave Doctor Who. He will have a major role in two episodes of the third season of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Tennant will also be supplying the voice of The Doctor in Dreamland, a seven part animated series. Each episode will run for six minutes, and others supplying voices include Georgia Moffett playing a character named Cassie Rice. A Doctor Who movie is also being considered but it is not known if Tennant will be in it.


A new trailer is out for the upcoming Torchwood miniseries, Children of Earth (above).


Star Trek is now the top grossing movie of 2009 and has entered the list of top 100 films of all time.  There are interviews with the cast virtually everywhere. Here is Zoe Saldana on playing a Star Trek sex symbol as Uhura, and possibly becoming involved with Captain Kirk in the future:

You’re in Star Trek. So you’re a geek, right?
I am actually! I’m very proud to say I am a geek. But I’m kind of a cool geek. I grew up in a very sci-fi home so I’ve seen a lot of sci-fi movies, from Dune to Alien, 2001, ET, Batteries Not Included… All these films I go crazy for. But never Star Trek.

Was that why you weren’t sure whether to accept the role of Uhura?
Even though I’ve wanted to work with JJ Abrams, I was worried that it could have backfired on my career. But when JJ told me the kind of Star Trek he wanted to make, I wanted to be a Star Trek fan now. He writes amazing roles for women.

He wasn’t afraid to put you in a very short skirt either…
Oh, no, no, no… He was not afraid at all! That was a combination of JJ and the costume designer wanting to keep the trendy ’60s style of the original show.

How does it feel to be a sex symbol for Trekkies?
Oh God, I don’t know! Now I’m a sex symbol for geeks? What have I done…

Any freaky moments with Trek fans?
Not yet, no… I’m very happy to say not yet. But I did have a driver that I had to spend the day with. And he opened his trunk of his black sedan and it was filled with Star Trek memorabilia.

That does sound a bit weird…
I don’t go that crazy when I think about those sort of things happening at the time. But I’m thinking ‘Okay, is this normal for a man to drive around in a sedan with Star Trek memorabilia in his trunk?’ No. Freaky!

Who do you prefer, Kirk or Spock?
Oh God… It depends! I suppose it would have to be Spock for now.

So pointy ears are a bonus?
Hmm, I don’t know… Maybe in the sequel, I wouldn’t mind giving it a go with Kirk. He’s has those dreamy blue eyes. He brings a very interesting, rebellious manliness to the part.

Is that the kind of guy you go for?
I tend to be very picky, so I look for the perfect man! So it Spock and Kirk can mix, they’d become my perfect man. That’s the kind of guy I’d go for. I don’t only go for muscles, I don’t only go for brains. You just need to have a little bit of a bad boy and a geek and then you’ve got the perfect guy.


Bruce Greenwood, who played Captain Christopher Pike, discussed his thoughts on future Star Trek movies:

I have to ask an obvious question. What do you know about plans for any sequels to the latest “Star Trek” movie?

They’re bouncing around story ideas right now. I think, from what I gather, the intention is start shooting next summer.

What would you like to see happen in any of the sequels?

I think these guys are clever enough to do at least two more and have the final one do a really hard dovetail into the beginning of [the storylines] for the original [“Star Trek”] series. My expectations are very high for them. The only thing I’d like to see, from a personal standpoint, is the mentor relationship between Kirk and Pike to continue.

I like the idea of the movies dovetailing into the beginning of the original Star Trek series but there is a problem. Abrams changed the time line in ways which prevent this from being entirely possible. I generally loved the movie and don’t want to sound like the hard core Trekkies who object to the film but I do think that the major changes made by Abrams were both unnecessary and counterproductive in the long run.

For those who aren’t up on the specifics of the original series, the show was written to begin with the Enterprise already having a history. The Enterprise was first seen at some point during a five year mission. At the start of the series Captain Kirk has already been captain for an unspecified period of time. The Enterprise had two previous captains, Robert April and Christopher Pike. The original series was canceled before the conclusion of the original five year mission, and the movies take place at a later point in time.

Abrams could have limited conflicting with Star Trek canon by placing his movies before the episodes of the original series. As the actors aged he could have also done stories later in the five year mission. It is now impossible to have the Abrams movies dovetail completely into the original series as the changes in the time line now make many of the stories impossible. We cannot have any of the episodes involving Vulcan such as Amok Time. Nor could we have the episode featuring Spock’s mother, Journey to  Babal. The two part episode, The Menagerie, would also not be possible as it dealt with flashbacks to the time when Christopher Pike was captain (actually using footage from the original pilot, The Cage, which NBC rejected as too cerebral). Balance of Terror would no longer be the same as a major aspect of the show involved Star Fleet not knowing that Romulans appeared similar to Vulcans.


Summer Glau, shown above in a picture from Vanity Fair, is now available following the cancellation of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. As Glau previously appeared in Joss Whedon’s series Firefly there has been speculation that she will wind up with a role on Whedon’s current series, Dollhouse. Ausiello writes:

The noise you’re about to hear is the sound of the Whedonverse exploding. Joss confirms to me exclusively that, well, he’s one step ahead of you. “If anybody thinks [bringing Summer onto Dollhouse] hasn’t occurred to me already then they have not met me,” he says. “I mentioned it to her before [SCC] was canceled. I was like, ‘You know, we should get you in the ‘house.’ But first we have to come up with something that works.” And casting her as a doll would not work, insists Whedon. “Summer would be perfect to play an active, but she’s done that [type of role] a lot,” he says. “I’d rather see her play someone who talks too much. The most fun I have is when I get somebody who’s good and comfortable at doing something, and then I make them do something else. Summer said to me, ‘I would like to play a normal girl before I die of extreme old age.

Post 9/11 Traumatic Distress Syndrome

It is understandable that people where shaken up by the events of 9/11. It must have been startling for Dick Cheney to have been carried off by the secret service to an underground bunker. Meanwhile George Bush seemed to be in such a panic that he could not function for a couple of days. We  need level headed leaders who can overcome their initial shock and act responsibly. Richard Clarke, who was also there on 9/11, doesn’t accept shock over the events as justification for the disastrous policy mistakes which followed. He writes in an op-ed:

Top officials from the Bush administration have hit upon a revealing new theme as they retrospectively justify their national security policies. Call it the White House 9/11 trauma defense.

“Unless you were there, in a position of responsibility after September 11, you cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that you faced in trying to protect Americans,” Condoleezza Rice said last month as she admonished a Stanford University student who questioned the Bush-era interrogation program. And in his May 21 speech on national security, Dick Cheney called the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a “defining” experience that “caused everyone to take a serious second look” at the threats to America. Critics of the administration have become more intense as memories of the attacks have faded, he argued. “Part of our responsibility, as we saw it,” Cheney said, “was not to forget the terrible harm that had been done to America.”

I remember that morning, too. Shortly after the second World Trade Center tower was hit, I burst in on Rice (then the president’s national security adviser) and Cheney in the vice president’s office and remember glimpsing horror on his face. Once in the bomb shelter, Cheney assembled his team while the crisis managers on the National Security Council staff coordinated the government response by video conference from the Situation Room. Many of us thought that we might not leave the White House alive. I remember the next day, too, when smoke still rose from the Pentagon as I sat in my office in the White House compound, a gas mask on my desk. The streets of Washington were empty, except for the armored vehicles, and the skies were clear, except for the F-15s on patrol. Every scene from those days is seared into my memory. I understand how it was a defining moment for Cheney, as it was for so many Americans.

Yet listening to Cheney and Rice, it seems that they want to be excused for the measures they authorized after the attacks on the grounds that 9/11 was traumatic. “If you were there in a position of authority and watched Americans drop out of eighty-story buildings because these murderous tyrants went after innocent people,” Rice said in her recent comments, “then you were determined to do anything that you could that was legal to prevent that from happening again.”

I have little sympathy for this argument. Yes, we went for days with little sleep, and we all assumed that more attacks were coming. But the decisions that Bush officials made in the following months and years — on Iraq, on detentions, on interrogations, on wiretapping — were not appropriate. Careful analysis could have replaced the impulse to break all the rules, even more so because the Sept. 11 attacks, though horrifying, should not have surprised senior officials. Cheney’s admission that 9/11 caused him to reassess the threats to the nation only underscores how, for months, top officials had ignored warnings from the CIA and the NSC staff that urgent action was needed to preempt a major al-Qaeda attack.

Clarke discussed specific ideas discussed, including invading Iraq, use of the U.S. courts and prisons to handle suspected terrorists, extreme interrogation methods, and wiretapping. While not discussed in detail in his op-ed, the Bush administration had also received warnings prior to the attack which they had ignored. He concluded:

Yes, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice may have been surprised by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — but it was because they had not listened. And their surprise led them to adopt extreme counterterrorism techniques — but it was because they rejected, without analysis, the tactics the Clinton administration had used. The measures they uncritically adopted, which they simply assumed were the best available, were in fact unnecessary and counterproductive.

“I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities,” Cheney said in his recent speech. But this defense does not stand up. The Bush administration’s response actually undermined the principles and values America has always stood for in the world, values that should have survived this traumatic event. The White House thought that 9/11 changed everything. It may have changed many things, but it did not change the Constitution, which the vice president, the national security adviser and all of us who were in the White House that tragic day had pledged to protect and preserve.

The purpose of a terrorist attack is to inflict terror upon the victims. They were far more successful than they might have anticipated considering the degree to which they inflicted terror upon top leaders in the Bush administration, leading them to take actions which were counterproductive to our national security and contrary to our principles.

Doctors, Life Expectancy, and Health Care Reform

Hugh Hewitt makes an especially desperate attempt to attack health care reform in a post entitled Obamacare Will Lead To A U-Turn On Life-Expectancy: What To Tell The Blue Dogs. In looking at the politics of health care reform he writes, “It is amazing that neither the D.C. GOP or any of the doctors’ groups have yet organized such an effort…” I disagree that the GOP has not been organizing against health care reform, but it is notable that doctors groups are not.

Not only are doctors groups not organizing against health care reform, but physicians have become among the strongest advocates of reform. That is because we see first hand how our health care system is collapsing. We know the problems greater than anyone else, other than perhaps the millions who are victims of the system. In an interconnected world we increasingly see how far we are falling behind other countries. While tertiary care remains tops in the world in the United States, in many other areas we have fallen behind the rest of the industrialized world. Doctors, after devoting years of our lives to medical educations, simply do not want to see our health care continue to slide into a second rate system.

Of course there will always be doctors who oppose health care reform. This is primarily motivated out of fears of lost income, but doctors also tend to be conservative and many really believe the propaganda coming from the right. Hewitt supports the claim in his title by printing a letter from a single anonymous doctor. Finding a doctor to oppose health reform is hardly difficult, but not very informative either.

The letter is based upon information from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists. There are many areas in which our subspecialty care in Oncology remains top in the world. Unfortunately if preventing deaths from cancer is how we measure a health care system, our system fails in cancer as well as in many other areas. While we must preserve our quality of care in cancer treatment under health care reform–and there is no reason why we cannot–we must also do something about the millions of Americans who cannot afford routine cancer screening. Treatment of cancer is not only about high tech treatment provided by Oncology. We must also consider routine pap smears, mammograms, and colon screening.

Hewitt tries to scare readers by claiming that our life expectancy will decrease if we reform our health care system. One would think that our life expectancy was something to brag about. Life expectancy is not the only measure of a health care system as there are many other factors involved such as demographics, but this is the measure which Hewitt decided to make his argument upon. I’ll post the rankings of the top fifty countries under the fold. The United States falls at number 45, following Jordan, Puerto Rico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bermuda, and Saint Helena. Canada and Great Britain are often used as scare stories by the right, even though neither system is popular with advocates of health care reform. Despite all their problems, Canada falls at seventh and even the United Kingdom leads the United States at 37. If Hewitt wants to make life expectancy the primary consideration for supporting health care reform, we better look at how other countries are doing better than we are.


A Libertarian View on The Reaction To Sotomayor

Will Wilkinson on the reaction to Sonia Sotomayor

God, I hate politics. It really does make people stupid, especially those whose tribe is out of power. When Sonia Sotomayor was nominated, I knew nothing relevant about her judicial philosophy or, much more importantly, about her actual record as a judge. You’d think you’d wait to learn something about this before saying something about her, but no. People just proceeded to go crazy on cue.

Like Damon Root, I’m in favor of libertarian judicial activism. But I know that Barack Obama is no libertarian, and I knew he wasn’t going to nominate Kozinski or Posner. Too bad! So I was hoping for a relatively centrist liberal who sees some merit in libertarian arguments, especially about the protection of economic rights. As far as I can tell, there is nothing especially worrying about Sotomayor. She’s obviously super-qualified. And from what I’ve read, she seems like a highly competent, fairly moderate liberal who sticks pretty close to the law (which nobody really likes when they don’t like the law!) and is perfectly willing to side with Republican-appointed judges when that seems to her the right thing to do. What are people going batshit crazy over? I don’t get it. And I really don’t get why many Republicans have taken this opportunity to reinforce the already widespread impression that they are morally odious morons. God, I hate politics.

I’ve already given my reaction to the ridiculous Republican response to Sodomayor here and here. With all the Republican whining about judicial activism, which generally means they oppose judges who promote liberal ideas but love judges which promote conservative ideas, it is good to see someone express a different point of view. As our views of liberty have expanded since when the Constitution was written I am perfectly okay with judicial acts to expand upon our liberties. For example, while abortion rights was not something which the Founding Fathers would have specifically addressed, Roe v. Wade was the right call by the courts to apply their ideals of individual liberty and privacy to today. While I think it is a stretch to think the Second Amendment provides a personal as opposed to a collective right to bear arms, I wasn’t especially disturbed by the recent act of judicial activism to declare that such a personal right does exist. In reality virtually everyone supports judicial activism, as long as they are pleased with the decision.

A Night In New York

There’s a long list of reasons why the Republicans are no longer seen as a serious political party by a growing number of people. One of these is that they tend to pick the most inane things to make a big deal of. Now they are upset about Barack Obama taking his wife out for an evening in Manhattan–something which I love to do whenever I get the chance.

The last Republican president lied us into a war, undermined our national security, disgraced our country by resorting to torture, interfered with stem cell research, and wrecked the economy.

Barack Obama had took a night off in New York City and they really think anyone is going to be upset.

It gets even worse. Republicans tried to get people to oppose Obama and back them because, for one evening, Obama did something which was somewhat (but hardly extraordinary) extravagant.  For Republicans to  make such an argument takes about as much chutzpah as for them to attack a Democratic nominee with claims of racism.

Update: One commenter complains about the money spent to travel on Air Force One and wrote, “You give up your personal life once you become the president and he knew it.” My response:

When you complain about Obama spending the money on Air Force One, do you realize that it is by definition impossible for him to do anything different when he flies? The airplane which the president is on is always designated Air Force One.  He did actually save the taxpayers money by going on a smaller plane than the plane usually used as Air Force One since it was such a brief trip.

If you don’t believe a president should have any personal life, what do you think of George Bush, who broke new records for taking vacations while in office?

At least a night in New York will not prevent Obama from performing the necessary duties of office.  In contrast, while George Bush was on vacation he ignored a critical daily intelligence brief which warned that al Queda was planning an attack using airplanes.