Jul 1 2009


Guessing the Views of Pro-Choice Advocates

New York Times reporter Charlie Savage (5/28/09) reported on the “unease” some abortion rights advocates feel about the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, because “when she has written opinions that touched tangentially on abortion disputes, she has reached outcomes in some cases that were favorable to abortion opponents.” Savage cited rulings in favor of the Bush administration’s reinstatement of the global gag rule, in favor of anti-abortion protesters being able to sue police for using excessive force and in favor of Chinese refugees seeking asylum because of China’s forced abortion policies.

But who’s uneasy about these? The only one cited by any major reproductive rights group is the one upholding the global gag rule (e.g., Center for Reproductive Rights, 5/26/09). Pro-choice groups do not generally favor police brutality against anti-abortion demonstrators, so it’s not clear why that case was included. And reproductive rights groups certainly don’t support forced abortions—that’s why they’re called “pro-choice” groups (and why “pro-abortion” is a misnomer). Savage even quoted an anti-choice activist acknowledging as much, though with the right-wing spin you’d expect: “Even ‘the most radical feminist’ would object to forcing women to abort wanted pregnancies.” It’s telling that Savage didn’t cite any interviews with actual feminists, radical or otherwise, about what they think of the Sotomayor nomination.

Pity the CIA

A Washington Post piece by Walter Pincus (5/19/09) described the CIA as “battered by recriminations over waterboarding and other harsh techniques,” and “girding itself for more public scrutiny.” The article presented the agency’s view that “it is being forced to take the blame for actions approved by elected officials that have since fallen into disfavor.” “Fallen into disfavor” is a euphemism; what’s happened is that it’s been acknowledged that the torture program was unconstitutional and illegal under U.S. and international law. Usually when people are “forced to take the blame” for criminal actions, they are put on trial. But Pincus noted that President Obama has promised that CIA torturers will not face punishment if they followed the Bush administration’s torture guidelines. But, wrote Pincus, “agency personnel still face subpoenas and testimony under oath before criminal, civil and congressional bodies.” His example: A grand jury investigation into the CIA’s destruction of interrogation videotapes. So even though CIA officers have been effectively pardoned for the crime of torture, they still may have to answer for destroying the evidence. Life can be so unfair.

‘Tensions’ and ‘History’in Jerusalem

The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner (5/10/09) wrote about the Israeli government’s $100 million development plan in Jerusalem, “part of an effort to strengthen the status of Jerusalem as its capital.” According to the Times, this will involve tearing down some Palestinian homes around the city, while at the same time cleaning up other areas and putting up “new signs and displays that point out significant points of Jewish history.” Bronner and Kershner explained that the areas affected were taken in the 1967 war, but that annexation was “never recognized abroad.” They call this “a battle for historical legitimacy,” with Israeli archaeologists finding evidence of ancient Jewish life in Old Jerusalem. The problem, it would seem, is with how the other side is reacting: “Palestinian officials and institutions tend to dismiss the finds as part of an effort to build a Zionist history here. In other words, while the Israeli narrative that guides the government plan focuses largely—although not exclusively—on Jewish history and links to the land, the Palestinian narrative heightens tensions, pushing the Israelis into a greater confrontational stance.”

Apparently in that battle for legitimacy, tearing down your opponents’ homes is focusing on “history,” while downplaying archeology is “heightening tensions.”

The Iranian Threat to Western Europe Eastern Crete

The May 21 New York Times warned readers about the test of an Iranian missile “that was capable of striking Israel and parts of Western Europe.” This was an important point in the article—reporters David E. Sanger and Nazila Fathi included it in their lead paragraph, and later said that one of the “three technologies necessary to field an effective nuclear weapon…is developing a missile capable of reaching Israel and parts of Western Europe, and now the country has several likely candidates.”

The article reported that the range of the missile is “believed to be more than 1,200 miles.” Which “parts of Western Europe” are within 1,200 miles of Iran? Well, the city in Iran closest to Western Europe is Tabriz, and Tabriz is less than 1,200 miles from…eastern Crete. Now, Tabriz is not right at the border of Iran, so you could perhaps launch a missile with a range of 1,200 miles from the edge of Iranian soil and have it land in, say, Athens. You certainly couldn’t reach Italy, let alone any of the other countries that probably leap to mind when you think of “Western Europe.” The Times might more accurately have said “Israel and Greece” when describing the missile’s potential range—but that wouldn’t have had the same ring.

More SoundBites

August 2009 / June 2009