Dr. George Tiller

I haven’t posted for several weeks because of a problem with my arm that makes being at the keyboard painful, but I had to break by silence just to note with both sadness and outrage the shooting of Dr. Tiller in a church.

The religious right and the so-called pro-life movement is condemning the shooting, but they cannot deny their responsibility in stirring up hatred.  I am sure that the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice by President Obama triggered something in the irrational brain of the shooter who realized that Roe v. Wade was not likely to be overturned.

This from the New York Times  story

Dr. Tiller, who had long been a lightning rod for controversy over the issue of abortion and had survived a shooting more than a decade ago, was shot inside his church here on Sunday morning, the authorities said. Dr. Tiller, 67, was shot with a handgun inside the lobby of his longtime church, Reformation Lutheran Church on the city’s East Side, just after 10 a.m. (Central Time). The service had started minutes earlier.

I was saddened when I first heard a snippet on the news, but then to realize that he was shot in church added outrage.  How can the religious right call themselves Christian?

The photograph from the New York Times story shows a man laying flowers at the church.

I sure we will learn more about the suspect who is under arrest in the days to come, but tonight we pray for Dr. Tiller and his family.

War Crimes and Henry T. King, Jr.

Henry T. King, Jr. who died on May 9 was one of the three American prosecutors at Nuremburg still alive.  His obituary appeared in the New York Times.

Mr. King, along with Whitney Harris and Benjamin Ferencz, both of whom survive, were the last three of about 200 American prosecutors who helped bring dozens of Nazi leaders to trial from 1945 to 1949.

Half a century later, the three joined forces to help shape the creation of the International Criminal Court. When delegates from 131 nations met in Rome to establish the criminal court in 1998, their original draft placed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide under the court’s jurisdiction. The delegates did not include wars of aggression as war crimes, as opposed to those fought in self-defense or authorized by the United Nations. The three prosecutors traveled to Rome and lobbied to reshape the draft.

“They used their moral authority; they were persistent, and ultimately the delegates included a reference to the crime of war of aggression in the court’s statute,” said Michael Scharf, the director of the International Law Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

The I.C.C. is the first permanent international criminal court in history. (The United States has not ratified the I.C.C. treaty.)

Mr. King was 26 when he stepped off a train in war-ravaged Nuremberg. All about him were the rubble of bombed-out buildings and people begging for food.

“As I walked to the courthouse for the first time, I said I’m going to dedicate my life to the prevention of this,” he said at a conference on genocide held last August by the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y.

In 1945 and 1946, the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union had joined in the prosecution of 21 Nazi officials. Among them were Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, and Albert Speer, who as minister of war production was in charge of all German industry. Eighteen of the 21 were convicted; on Oct. 16, 1946, 10 were hanged. Speer, the only one to express remorse, spent 20 years in prison; he died in 1981.


One of the most interesting aspects of his life what his on-going relationship with Albert Speer.  (Pictured with Mr. King in the photograph.  Mr. King is on the right.)

To gather evidence for the Milch case, Mr. King interviewed some of those already convicted, including Speer. It was the start of a long relationship, one in which Mr. King could never quite comprehend the contradictions in the seemingly contrite Speer.

For more than 30 years, Mr. King corresponded with Speer and visited him. He kept a photograph of Speer by his bedside. Still, he said, he was not taken in by the war criminal.

“Speer closed his eyes to the world of humanity, and thus, a concern for human ethics never intruded on his relentless drive as armaments minister,” Mr. King wrote in a 1997 memoir, “The Two Worlds of Albert Speer.” “In a technological world, the magic concoction for evil consists of blind technocrats such as Speer led by an evil and aggressive leader such as Hitler.”

The United States should agree to participate in the International Criminal Court.  We know the reason the George W. Bush administration refused:  They had a fear of prosecution.  With the growing tide of relevations, their fears were probably justified.  We did fight a war of aggression in Iraq. 

But fear that former leaders will be prosecuted should not stop the United States from doing the right thing.  I believe that courts in Europe will indict many of them in any case.

What is Dick Cheney Up To?

I couldn’t sleep after something woke me up at 4:15 this morning and I started thinking about Rachel Maddow’s piece last night about former Vice President Dick Cheney.  She presented a video montage of his “torture saves lives” tour of news talk shows.  It is really quite remarkable when you see them one after the other.  Maddow’s piece ends with an interview of Retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson who served as Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff when Powell was Secretary of State.  Wilkerson wondered out loud if Cheney realized that he may be making revelations that could provide evidence which could eventually lead to his, Cheney’s, prosecution. 

Then when I finally got out of bed and turned on the computer, there was Maureen Dowd’s column Rouge Diva of Doom.

When Bush 41 was ramping up to the Gulf War, assembling a coalition to fight Saddam, Jimmy Carter sent a letter to members of the U.N. Security Council urging them not to rush into conflict without further exploring a negotiated solution.

The first President Bush and other Republicans in Washington considered this treasonous, a former president trying to thwart a sitting one, lobbying foreign diplomats to oppose his own country on a war resolution. In 2002, when Bush Junior was ramping up to his war against Saddam, Al Gore made a speech trying to slow down that war resolution, pointing out that pivoting from Osama to Saddam for no reason, initiating “pre-emptive” war, and blowing off our allies would undermine the war on terror.

Asked by Bob Schieffer on Sunday how America could torture when it made a mockery of our ideals, Cheney blithely gave an answer that surely would have been labeled treasonous by Rush Limbaugh, if a Democratic ex-vice president had said it about a Republican president.

“Well, then you’d have to say that, in effect, we’re prepared to sacrifice American lives rather than run an intelligent interrogation program that would provide us the information we need to protect America,” Doomsday Dick said.

Cheney has replaced Sarah Palin as Rogue Diva. Just as Jeb Bush and other Republicans are trying to get kinder and gentler, Cheney has popped out of his dungeon, scary organ music blaring, to carry on his nasty campaign of fear and loathing.

So, back to my question:  What is Cheney up to?  Is he on some long term campaign to get Americans to be afraid so we will elect Republicans again?  Is he trying to influence public opinion so that we don’t think torture is all that bad and we won’t want to bring him to trial?  Or is he just stupid?  Here’s Dowd again

Cheney’s numskull ideas — he still loves torture (dubbed “13th-century” stuff by Bob Woodward), Gitmo and scaring the bejesus out of Americans — are not only fixed, they’re jejune.

He has no coherent foreign policy viewpoint. He still doesn’t fathom that his brutish invasion of Iraq unbalanced that part of the world, empowered Iran and was a force multiplier for Muslims who hate America. He left our ports unsecured, our food supply unsafe, the Taliban rising and Osama on the loose. No matter if or when terrorists attack here — and they’re on their own timetable, not a partisan red/blue state timetable — Cheney will be deemed the primary one who made America more vulnerable.

According to Dowd, even the Bush Family doesn’t like what he is doing.  What scares me is that there is a small segment of the population that will believe everything Cheney says and a larger one that can be influenced by his scare tactics.  But maybe the Bushes would like to silence him before he implicates George W. Bush in a way that will be impossible to ignore.  I think his remarks will lead to more documents being revealed.  Perhaps we should keep Cheney talking.

Rachel Maddow has said several times she would like to interview Cheney and last night issued her invitation again with a twist.  She would have Col. Wilkerson help her to do the interview.  I’d say the odds are not good he will accept.

Tar Heels Visit the White House

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity has probably figured out I would write about the North Carolina Tar Heels visiting the White House yesterday.

President Obama welcomed Coach Roy Williams and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels to the White House.

Everyone who follows March Madnes(and many that don’t) knows that the President picked UNC to win it all.  Jeff Zelney writes  in the  New York Times

“Congratulations on bringing Carolina its fifth national championship,” Mr. Obama said. “And, more importantly, thanks for salvaging my bracket and vindicating me before the entire nation. That first round was rough on me.”

As he stood on the South Portico of the White House, Mr. Obama played host to yet another group of collegiate champions. But this meeting was far more personal than previous teams that have visited the White House this year, largely because of Mr. Obama’s affinity to the Tar Heels and the amount of time he invested in North Carolina, where he won the statewide primary and general elections.

“Now, I did have a chance to play ball with this crew just over a year ago when I visited Chapel Hill. And I’m not sure whose luck rubbed off on who,” Mr. Obama said. “I think there was just a good vibe going on there, because they’re now national champions and I’m now president.”

A year ago, as his presidential campaign was beset with controversy over the incendiary comments of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Mr. Obama arrived on the Chapel Hill campus for an early-morning game of hoops and a tour of the Tar Heels’ locker room. (Mr. Obama followed tradition and stepped around the school logo in the center of the floor, a zone of respect where footsteps are not allowed.)

“When we played, everybody went out of their way to pass me the ball, set screens for me, let me take a shot,” the president said, recalling that 7 a.m. pickup game on April 29, 2008. “Tyler chose not to block my shot – of course, I was so intimidated by him being near me that I missed it.”

According to Politico , where you can also see video,

Obama — wearing a shade close to Tarheel blue — recounted a story about playing hoops with the team a year ago when he was a presidential candidate.

“There was a good vibe going on there because they’re now national champions and I’m president,” he said, teasing one player Jack Wooten for blocking his shot and fouling him during the game.

Obama joked that everyone at the White House was excited about the team’s visit “except my assistant Reggie Love,” who played basketball for Duke. The president congratulated the team and coach Roy Williams for “great character.”

Congratulations, Tar Heels.

So, Is Michael Steele Certifiable?

A week or so ago there was his comment about Republicans and how they wear their caps all different ways trying to show how diverse the party is, I think.   This happened on MSBC’s Morning Joe.

Then he said this about President Obama’s description of what he would look for in a Supreme Court nominee,

Crazy nonsense, empathetic,” said Steele. “I’ll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind. Craziness.”

Here is the link from Talking Points Memo so you can hear Mr. Steele for yourself.

And finally here is what he said about the Minnesota Senate race, also from TPM.

I know what you’re all thinking. You’re thinking that if the Minnesota Supreme Court next month determines that Al Franken should be seated, the national Republican Party will graciously accept their decision, and Norm Colemen will offer up a kind and thoughtful concession speech.

“[N]o, hell no. Whatever the outcome, it’s going to get bumped to the next level,” said RNC chairman Michael Steele.

Somewhat implicit in that last sentence is the assumption that Coleman will ultimately lose. And implicit in that implication is the idea that the Republicans are doing this to keep another Democrat out of the Senate for as long as possible, and depriving Minnesotans of dual representation in the process.

Assuming the Minnesota Supreme Court sides with Franken, the question of whether to seat him, even if provisionally, will fall to Gov. Tim Pawlenty–a presidential hopeful who, as we’ve noted before, will face tons of pressure from his party not to certify the victory at all. If this is any indication, the GOP is already turning up the heat.

Can you imagine what Steele would be saying if the sides were reversed and Al Franken was refusing to concede?  Probably something not printable.

The Woman Who Named Pluto

The English woman who in 1930 suggested the newly discovered planet  be named Pluto died on April 30.  [Regardless of what it is considered now, I still think of Pluto as a planet. ]   The eleven year old Venetia Phair suggested the name to her grandfather at the breakfast table.


Venetia Phair

“My grandfather, as usual, opened the paper, The Times, and in it he read that a new planet had been discovered,” she recalled in a short film, “Naming Pluto,” released earlier this year. “He wondered what it should be called. We all wondered.

“And then I said, ‘Why not call it Pluto?’ And the whole thing stemmed from that.”

Her grandfather told a friend who told the discoverer, Clyde W. Tombaugh.

When the name was publicly announced on May 1, 1930, Mrs. Phair said her grandfather rewarded her with a five-pound note. (The same purchasing power today would be about 230 pounds, or $350.)

According to the London Telegraph, Ms. Phair is the only woman to have named a planet.  The photograph of Ms. Phair at 11 is from the Telegraph obituary. 

She was fascinated with astronomy, and recalled playing a game at school using clay lumps to mark out the relative positions of the planets.

She was also a keen student of mythology, and knew about Pluto, the Roman name for the Greek god of the underworld, Hades.

“There were practically no names left from classical mythology,” she told the BBC. “Whether I thought about the dark and gloomy Hades, I’m not sure.”

She tartly rejected any suggestion that the planet was named for the Disney dog, instead of the other way around.

She studied mathematics at Cambridge University and taught economics and math until retiring in the 1980s.

Coming full circle in a way, my husband read me her obituary from the Boston Globe this morning at breakfast – the print edition, of course.

Barack and Jacoby

The Social Security Administration has released their list of baby names for last year.  Not surprisingly, Barack  is becoming a popular name.

Jumping more than 10,000 spots — from number 12,535 in 2007 to 2,409 in 2008 — it’s by no means one of the top titles for tykes. But 2009 could see an even bigger spike, perhaps putting the name in the top 1,000 for next year.

Barack Obama

Kinda like when a bunch of baby boomers were named Dwight, after the President and General Eisenhower.  But it does change the perception of the name, Barack, when there are a lot more of them running around and lots of people know a child with the name.  I used to be unique with the name Maya until Maya Angelou gained a lot of recognition.  I had a very brief encounter with her in 1977 when we both remarked how interesting it was to meet another Maya.  Now Maya’s are all over the place.

And then there is the growing popularity of Jacoby.

Though Jacob was the top name for boys, its variation, Jacoby, jumped 200 spots to number 423, drawing inspiration, no doubt, from Red Sox rookie centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Perhaps these kids will be stealing bases like number 46 when they start T-ball.
Jacoby Ellsbury

I should also note that for some reason Emma was the top girl’s name with Olivia holding steadyand Miley moving up.