Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Soft On Terrorists

In August of this year, while the cable news channels breathlessly interviewed and re-interviewed the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, three convicted terrorists entered the United States.

Recently released from prison by a questionable Third World government, the three men had been tried and convicted for a plot to detonate 33 pounds of explosives at a university while a prominent world leader was speaking. It wouldn't exactly have been what you could call a surgical strike. Hundreds might have died - diplomats, students, janitors, cops - had their plan not been discovered in time.

Nor would that have been their first terrorist attack. One of them had fired a bazooka at a government building in New York. All three had been implicated in the murder or attempted murder of government officials. Their fourth compatriot in the university assassination plot, who is still at large and is known to be traveling on a false U.S. passport, escaped from prison after blowing up an airliner, killing 73 people. He also planned hotel bombings in which several tourists died.

How did these men, these convicted terrorists, these hardened criminals with no respect for life, manage to sneak into the U.S.? How did they slip the tight post-9/11 Homeland Security cordon? What wily methods did they use to evade the all-searching, tough-on-terrorism eye of George W. Bush?

They didn't.
After their release, three of the four immediately flew via private jet to Miami, where they were greeted with a cheering fiesta organized by the hard-line anti-Castro community. Federal officials briefly interviewed the pardoned men — all holders of U.S. passports — and then let them go their way. [...]

So far, not a single White House, State Department or Homeland Security official has expressed outrage at Panama's decision to put terrorists back on the world's streets. The FBI appears to have no plans to lead a search for Posada [Otter's note: the one who is still at large] so he can be returned to Venezuela, where he is a wanted fugitive. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has rounded up and expelled hundreds of foreigners on the mere suspicion of a terrorist link, has indicated no intention to detain and deport Novo, Jimenez and Remon.
Oh yeah, I guess I left something out. These guys were anti-Castro terrorists, and most of the civilians they killed were Cubans or pinko fellow travelers visiting Cuba. And the people who would've been killed in the university bombing were tainted as well, being the kind of people who would be willing to attend a summit with a Communist. So that's all right, then.

Plus, George Bush really really needs to win Florida, or he won't be able to continue his stalwart efforts to, what was it again? Oh yeah: to "create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

Yeah. Maybe that's the sort of thing that ought to begin at home.

(Via Daily Kos)

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Right To Life

It's easy to think that "partial-birth abortion" laws could never affect you, or a woman you care about. The right wing circulates lurid, sensationalized descriptions of the procedure that can give even pro-choice people the squeamish sense that "you have to draw the line somewhere," and that it might be okay to draw it there... or at least, that the real focus should be on preserving access to first trimester abortions.

If that sounds familiar, read this essay - and I guarantee that you will never feel that way again.

It's a first-person account by a journalist who discovered, at 19 weeks' gestation, that her much-wanted baby had died in utero. By far the safest option for removing the dead baby while preserving the mother's health and her fertility was the procedure called "dilation and extraction," known in political circles as "partial-birth abortion." The D&E had a 4% risk of serious complications, the alternative procedure 29%. The problem, in the wake of Bush's 2003 "partial-birth abortion" ban, was finding someone to do the procedure.
When I arrived at the university’s emergency room, the source of the tension was clear. After examining me and confirming I was bleeding but not hemorrhaging, the attending obstetrician, obviously pregnant herself, defensively explained that only one of their dozens of obstetricians and gynecologists still does D&Es, and he was simply not available.

Not today. Not tomorrow. Not the next day.

No, I couldn’t have his name. She walked away from me and called my doctor.

“You can’t just dump these patients on us,” she shouted into the phone, her high-pitched voice floating through the heavy curtains surrounding my bed. “You should be dealing with this yourself.”

Shivering on the narrow, white exam table, I wondered what I had done wrong. Then I pulled back on my loose maternity pants and stumbled into the sunny parking lot, blinking back tears in the dazzling spring day, trying to understand the directions they sent me out with: Find a hotel within a few blocks from a hospital. Rest, monitor the bleeding. Don’t go home — the 45-minute drive might be too far.
She walked around for a week, bleeding, with her dead baby inside of her, because the virulent political controversy around dilation and extraction meant that no one was willing to provide her with proper medical care. This could happen to me. This could happen to any woman.

(Via Ms. Musings.)

Friday, September 10, 2004

I Should Also Say...

...that I had a great time at Worldcon. I got to meet some fabulous bloggers for the first time - Charles Dodgson (who, strangely, I had always imagined looking a lot more like a Tenniel illustration), Charlie Stross, Trish Wilson - and also got to renew my acquaintance with others, like Mary Kay Kare of Gallimaufry (who throws a great party, and has excellent taste in single malts - not that it did me any good, alas), Kathryn Cramer, and Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. (I met Patrick and Teresa for the first and last time three years ago - it should definitely be a shorter amount of time before we meet again.)

The unexpected thing about being at Worldcon was that I got to meet a bunch of my readers. See, in the back of my head I still think of this blog as something that's read by about two dozen people, all of whom know me personally. I know it's not true, but it's what my mental map looks like. So it was simultaneously strange and cool to have all of these strangers come up to me and say, "Oh, Respectful of Otters! I read you all the time!" In a weird way, I think it renewed my commitment to blogging. For most of the summer now I've been idly starting posts in my head, and then thinking "Ah, why bother." Now I have specific faces in mind when I think "why blog?" I hope that will help keep my posting frequency up.

Special mention goes to Xopher, who (a) is the only reader I met whom I am sure it's okay to mention by name, and (b) was officially the first person ever to rub my pregnant belly. (No, I'm not showing yet.)

The Writings Of Dead Men

By now, I'm sure that everyone's seen the memos, unearthed by 60 Minutes, in which Bush's Texas Air National Guard commander complains that he is receiving pressure from upstairs to "sugar coat" Bush's performance evaluation, mentions that Bush wants to know "how he can get out of coming to drill," and suspends him for "failing to perform to U.S. Air Force/Texas Air National Guard standards." (If you haven't, the PDF files are in the sidebar to the linked article.)

Setting aside for a moment the forgery claims - because those arguments don't seem particularly credible to me - I was struck by the main theme of the Bush Administration defense.
Q: What about these two official documents signed by Jerry Killian is rumor and innuendo?

DAN BARTLETT: Well, it's impossible for anybody to read the mind of a dead man. Jerry Killian writes memos to himself in this file -- [...]

Again, we're trying to suggest the comments were the orders of somebody who is no longer alive. [...]

DAN BARTLETT: For anybody to try to interpret or presume they know what somebody who is now dead was thinking in any of these memos, I think is very difficult to do. [...]

Q: So there is certainly some opinion out there among former members of the military that these documents do indeed describe how Killian felt, what Killian thought about the situation.

DAN BARTLETT: Well, again, these are people --

Q: So it's not really open to interpretation --

DAN BARTLETT: Well, it is. It is. And when you're talking about a memo to somebody's self, this is a memo to his own file, people are trying to read the mind of somebody who is no longer with us. [...]

Q: Killian writes and voices an opinion here that he believes that the President was talking to someone upstairs about his transfer.

DAN BARTLETT: Again, that is conjecture on a part of somebody who is no longer with us. [...]
Got that? It's impossible for anyone to say what Col. Jerry Killian meant by the words he wrote, at least without the use of a psychic channeler or a ouija board, because Killian is dead. He's been dead for ten years, which is certainly long enough for his cryptic writings to sink into the mists of the impenetrable past.

I suppose that's a reasonable philosophical position. I just think it's strange that the same Administration champions a strict constructionist view of the U.S. Constitution, in which the writings of men two hundred years dead are held to be an entirely complete and sufficient blueprint for the past, present, and future of American law.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

So Where Am I Going?

I'm off to Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention, tomorrow. I expect that I won't have time to post, but I will be checking my Respectful of Otters e-mail. After I return on Tuesday, hopefully there will be more in the way of consistent blogging.

Enjoy your holiday weekend!