Thursday Reads

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Good Morning!!

Another day, another shocking, violent event. This time it’s the explosion of a fertilizer factory in the tiny town of West, Texas: ‘Like a nuclear bomb’: Deadly fertilizer plant blast devastates Texas town

(CNN) — The full extent of the devastation will have to wait until the light of day Thursday. But residents of the small Texas town of West already know what to expect.
“There are a lot of people that got hurt,” West Mayor Tommy Muska forewarned Wednesday night. “There are a lot of people that will not be here tomorrow.”

A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant on the edge of the town killed an estimated five to 15 people, wounded more than 160, leveled dozens of homes and prompted authorities to evacuate half their community of 2,800.

“It was like a nuclear bomb went off,” Muska said. “Big old mushroom cloud.”

The Wednesday night blast shook houses 50 miles away and measured as a 2.1-magnitude seismic event, according to the United States Geological Survey….[F]ire officials fear that the number of casualties could rise as high as 60 to 70 dead, said Dr. George Smith, the emergency management system director of the city.

The photo at the top of this post comes from the Dallas-Ft. Worth Morning News–you can see more photos at that link.

The paper also posted this video of the explosion, apparently taken from inside a truck. Be aware that the video is somewhat disturbing.

From the Houston Chronicle: Crews looking for victims of fertilizer plant blast

WEST — Rescue workers searched rubble that witnesses compared to a war zone early Thursday for survivors of a fertilizer plant explosion in a small Texas town. The blast injured more than 160 people and killed between five and 15. It left the factory a smoldering ruin and leveled buildings for blocks in every direction.

The explosion in downtown West, about 20 miles north of Waco, shook the ground with the strength of a small earthquake and could be heard dozens of miles away. It sent flames shooting into the night sky and rained burning embers, shrapnel and debris down on shocked and frightened residents.

“They are still getting injured folks out and they are evacuating people from their homes,” Waco police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said early Thursday morning. “At this point, we don’t know a number that have been killed. … I think we will see those fatalities increase as we get toward the morning.”

Among those believe to be dead: A group of volunteer firefighters who responded to a fire call at the West Fertilizer Co. about an hour before the blast. They remained unaccounted for overnight.

The explosion that struck around 7 p.m. leveled a four-block area around the plant that a member of the city council, Al Vanek, said was “totally decimated.” Other witnesses compared the scene to that of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and authorities said the plant made materials similar to that used to fuel the bomb that tore apart that city’s Murrah Federal Building.

Although authorities said it will be some time before they know the full extent of the loss of life, they put the number of those injured at more than 100. West Mayor Tommy Muska told reporters that his city of about 2,800 residents needs “your prayers.”

I’m sure we’ll learn much more about this story in the course of the day today.

Eric and Kim Williams

Eric and Kim Williams

In another shocking Texas story, the wife of former Kaufman County Justice of the Peace Eric Williams whom I wrote about on Sunday has confessed to her involvement in the murders of Texas prosecutors Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland and McLelland’s wife Cynthia. The NYT reports:

KAUFMAN, Tex. — The mystery of who shot and killed two prosecutors this year clouded life in this rural county southeast of Dallas for more than two months, with investigators delving into possible leads that led to white-supremacist groups and Mexican drug cartels.

But in the end, it apparently came down to a bitter local grudge. A former justice of the peace whose legal and political career collapsed in a hard-fought legal battle was accused Wednesday of killing the two prosecutors, who had been his courtroom rivals. And his wife not only named him as the gunman, but also confessed to having been the driver in both shootings as part of her role in the vendetta, the authorities said….

The two prosecutors that the authorities say the couple conspired to kill had helped convict Mr. Williams last year on burglary and theft charges in a dispute about three computer monitors worth less than $1,500. The Williamses — he a portly, diabetic lawyer who volunteered with the Texas State Guard; she his ailing yet supportive wife of 15 years — were accused of pulling off what even ruthless criminal organizations have rarely dared in modern times: the executions of two prosecutors, and the wife of one, to avenge a guilty verdict….

According to an affidavit filed by the authorities, Ms. Williams confessed to her involvement in the shootings in an interview with investigators on Tuesday, and told them that her husband had been the one who shot Mr. Hasse in January and Mr. McLelland and his wife in March.

During her interview, [Kim Lene Williams] supplied investigators with details of both shootings that had not been made public. One law enforcement official confirmed that Ms. Williams was not a gunman in the murders, but had been the driver, and had also used the storage unit where Mr. Williams had kept a car and more than 20 guns.

Yesterday Joseph Cannon dug up some amazing information on Paul Kevin Curtis, who has been arrested for sending letters that tested positive for ricin to President Obama and other government leaders, and today the mainstream media is catching up. The gist is that Curtis claim to have uncovered a plot to harvest and self human body parts at a hospital in a hospital in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Basically, he says that he (almost literally) stumbled upon evidence that the Medical Center was involved in the illegal organ trade. He also says that his attempts to expose the problem led to retaliatory action:
I have no faith left in the Mississippi Justice system. I feel my coming forward with my story and releasing it to news media all over the USA in 2001 has helped expose the illegal body parts and organ trade market world-wide.

I personally sent out more than a million emails in one year detailing what happened to me when I found the body parts at NMMC. In 2004, 4 arrests were made in New York City. In 2006, another illegal body parts scam was discovered in North Carolina. I am confident that although no local media has agreed to put in print what happened to me in Tupelo or the trigger-happy, intoxicated assistant DA, I know in my heart that my coming forward has brought national attention to this terrible and illegal black market.

This is Kevin Curtis and I approve this report.

Read all about it at Cannonfire.

Kevin Curtis

Kevin Curtis

Also at Time, Michael Crowley writes about the history of ricin terrorism.

To be clear, ricin is no laughing matter. The toxic compound, which can be extracted from widely available castor beans with relative ease, is lethal in tiny quantities. In a John le Carré–style plotline, a pellet of ricin deployed with a jab from a pointed umbrella tip killed the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in 1978. If ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin, ricin can cause vomiting, bloody urine and seizures, then massive organ failure. It has no antidote.

Hence its appeal to some nasty characters. Saddam Hussein tried to weaponize it in large quantities. Al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate has worked to produce ricin, and the organization’s online English-language Inspire magazine touted the substance to aspiring lone-wolf terrorists in America who “possess basic scientific knowledge.”

There have actually been several domestic ricin plots in recent years, none involving jihadists and most the work of antigovernment radicals. Not that any have come close to executing a successful attack: in late 2011, for example, federal agents arrested four Georgia men with militia ties whose plans included bombmaking and killing government officials with ricin. “This is worse than anthrax,” one of them reportedly boasted. “There ain’t no cure for it either.” The men, all in their 60s and 70s, were busted before they even began brewing the substance, whichexperts said they likely would have been unable to use on the mass scale of their imagination anyway.

Read more at the Swampland blog link.

In Boston, officials say they have

isolated ­images of a suspect carrying and perhaps dropping a black bag believed to have held one of two bombs that exploded 12 seconds apart Monday near the finish line of the historic race, said an official briefed on the investigation.

Authorities were “very close” Wednesday in their pursuit of the bomber, said the ­official, who declined to be named.

A surveillance camera at the Lord & Taylor store, across Boylston Street from the ­Forum restaurant where the second bomb exploded, has provided video of the area, though it was unclear whether the image of the suspect came from that camera, the official said….

A second person briefed on the investigation indicated that the image may have come from a cellphone.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are is in Boston today to attend and interfaith service in honor of the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

President Obama will speak at an interfaith prayer service to honor victims of the Boston Marathon bombings Thursday morning at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Titled “Healing Our City,” the service begins at 11 a.m. at the cathedral, on Washington Street in Boston’s South End. The renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma will perform, and clergy from different faiths will offer readings, prayers, and reflections.

“A violent and cruel intrusion like the bomb blast sends people scattering, and it’s terrorizing,” said the Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister of Old South Church, who will speak at the service. “The coming together is creating a space of unity and community in defiance of that kind of cruelty and violence.”

Four former governors will attend, Governor Deval Patrick said: Mitt Romney, William F. Weld, Michael S. Dukakis, and Jane M. Swift.

Traffic will be hell on earth, and I plan to say in my own neighborhood today and avoid it.

Gabby Giffords

Gabby Giffords

I’ll end with Gabriel Giffords’ op-ed, published in today’s NYT: A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip

SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.

On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.

Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.

I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.

Read the rest at the Times.

There sure has been an awful lot of awful news this week so far. What else is happening? Please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments. Take care today, everyone!


The Mystery Deepens . . . Who is Harry Reid’s Secret Source?

Jon Huntsman Sr.

It’s been ten days since Harry Reid first revealed that an unnamed Bain investor told him that Mitt Romney had paid no taxes for a decade. Reid has been attacked by all and sundry–called a “dirty liar” by RNC Chair Reince Priebus, awarded four Pinocchios by WaPo “fact checker” Glenn Kessler, and repeatedly denounced by Romney himself.

Others have tried to figure out who Reid’s mysterious source is. Joseph Cannon has been on the case for awhile now. On Sunday, Cannon hypothesized that the source could have been former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. Since then, Cannon has written several more follow-up posts.

Then yesterday, Markos at Dailykos suggested the source could be Jon Huntsman Sr.

Jon Huntsman Sr, is business partners with Robert C. Gay, who also happened to be Bain’s managing director between 1989 and 2004. And if anyone knows the machinations Bain used to evade taxes for itself and its partners, well, it would be the guy in charge of the firm’s finances.

Huntsman is also a Republican and a Mormon (like Harry Reid). As governor of next-door Utah, his son (who also served in the Obama administration as ambassador to China) likely developed a close working relationship on regional issues.

Kos also listed a number of donations from Huntsman family members to the Nevada Democratic Party. In a follow-up post today, Kos argued that Reid could be hoping to tempt his source into going public by dribbling out more hints day by day.

This afternoon, Greg Sargent contacted the elder Huntsman and asked him about all the rumors and speculation that he was Harry Reid’s source. Alas, Huntman denied it.

The internet is alive with speculation that the secret source Harry Reid claims to have on Mitt Romney’s tax returns is Utah industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr. He is the founder of Hunstman Corporation and the father of the former GOP presidential candidate — and the speculation is based on the fact that his profile fits with much of what we publicly know about Reid’s presumed confidante.

But I just got off the phone with Huntsman, and he confirmed to me that he is not Reid’s source.

But Huntsman did go on the record about Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns.

Huntsman forcefully called on Romney to release his tax returns. This matters, because Huntsman is a longtime backer of Romney — he has long been close to Romney; he supported his early campaigns; he was the national finance chairman of Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign; and he has raised a lot of money for him over the years. (He backed his own son in the latest GOP primary.)

“I feel very badly that Mitt won’t release his taxes and won’t be fair with the American people,” Huntsman told me. In a reference to Romney’s father, who pioneered the release of returns as a presidential candidate, Huntsman said: “I loved George. He always said, pay your taxes for at least 10 or 12 years.” (See update below.)

“Mr. Romney ought to square with the American people and release his taxes like any other candidate,” Huntsman said. “I’ve supported Mitt all along. I wish him well. But I do think he should release his income taxes.”

Well, that’s interesting and useful. This should keep the talk about Romney’s taxes alive through another weekend and another round of Sunday shows.

But the question remains: who *is* Reid’s secret source?

And here’s another burning question: Does Mitt Romney have a silly walk?


Monday Evening News Update

Good Evening!

I have some great Sky Dancing news! Minkoff Minx will be back posting again soon! She plans to do the Wednesday Morning Reads and will gradually work her way back to her previous schedule. I’m so happy you’re on the mend, Minx!

In addition, we have a new front pager, Ecocatwoman (AKA Connie from Orlando). If you haven’t read her first two posts yet, please check them out: Language Matters and Goodby Flipper?

It’s another slow news day in politics, but I’ve gathered a potpourri of links for you anyway.

First, I want to call your attention to an important post by Joseph Cannon at Cannonfire: Why is Progressive Insurance LYING about their spy devices?

You know about Progressive Insurance. That’s the company whose TV ads feature a lovely lady wearing a white uniform and blindingly red lipstick. The folks at Progressive are pushing a device called Snapshot which plugs into your car’s steering column and sends the company information about your driving habits. If you practice good habits, you get a substantial discount.

The question is: How much info are you sending to them? Are they tracking your location via GPS? Are they keeping track of how fast you go?

Progressive insists that they don’t collect location and speed info. In the video embedded above, you’ll see a Progressive commercial in which the lady with the stoplight lips assures you that the company doesn’t want to know where you go or how fast you get there. All they want to know is the amount of driving you do, how hard you hit the brakes, and what time of day you travel.

Please go read the whole thing. We truly have no privacy left. Along similar lines, apparently we can look forward to being spied on through our televisions next, according to The Daily Mail: Is your TV watching you? Samsung’s latest sets with built-in cameras spark concerns

Samsung’s latest breed of plasmas and HDTVs may allow hackers, or even the company itself, to see and hear you and your family, and collect extremely personal data.

The new models, which are closer than ever to personal computers, offer high-tech features that have previously been unavailable, including a built-in HD camera, microphone set and face and speech recognition software.

This software allows Samsung to recognise who is viewing the TV and personalises each person’s experience accordingly. The TV also listens and responds to specific voice commands.

This is Twilight Zone stuff!

Gary Merson, who runs website HD guru, said that because there is no way of disconnecting the camera and microphone, users cannot be 100 per cent sure that Samsung is not collecting data and passing it on to third parties.

Merson said: ‘What concerns us is the integration of both an active camera and microphone. A Samsung representative tells us you can deactivate the voice feature; however this is done via software, not a hard switch like the one you use to turn a room light on or off.

‘And unlike other TVs, which have cameras and microphones as add-on accessories connected by a single, easily removable USB cable, you can’t just unplug these sensors.

I’m never buying another TV as long as I live! I barely watch the thing anyway.

This morning Angela Corey, the special prosecutor (who began investigating the Trayvon Martin shooting after the states attorney in charge of Sanford, FL, Norman Wolfinger, had to recuse himself) announced that she will not be using a Grand Jury to determine whether to indict George Zimmerman or let him go free. The decision, and the consequences will be strictly on Corey. She didn’t indicate how much longer her investigation will take, so the only thing we know for sure right now is that Zimmerman won’t be charged with a capital offense. In Florida, that would require a Grand Jury.

According to The Miami Herald:

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon’s parents, issued a statement after Corey’s decision Monday.
“We are not surprised by this announcement and, in fact, are hopeful that a decision will be reached very soon to arrest George Zimmerman and give Trayvon Martin’s family the simple justice they have been seeking all along,” Crump said.
Trayvon, 17, was shot and killed by Zimmerman on Feb. 26 while walking through a Sanford neighborhood where he was visiting. Sanford police opted not to arrest Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense. After public outcry, Gov. Rick Scott assigned Corey, the state attorney for Duval, Nassau and Clay counties, to take over the case on March 22.

Assuming Corey decides to charge Zimmerman, it may not be as easy for him to get off with a “stand your ground” defense as some commentators have claimed, according to a legal analysis published by Reuters.

Interviews with nearly a dozen veteran defense lawyers who have experience litigating Stand Your Ground cases suggest winning immunity could be quite difficult.

“Judges do not readily grant these (immunity) motions because they know they can pass it on to the jury,” said Carey Haughwout, the public defender for Palm Beach County….

The first hurdle will be a special evidentiary hearing in front of a judge, where Zimmerman will have the opportunity to argue that he deserves immunity. But to convince the judge, Zimmerman will have to present a “preponderance of evidence” that he acted in self defense, which under the law means he has to show he had “reasonable belief” that such force was necessary. That is a high bar, and difficult to prove, criminal defense attorneys said.

In cases where the facts are in dispute — and even if they don’t seem to be — the judge is likely to deny the Stand Your Ground immunity motion, said Ralph Behr, a Florida criminal defense attorney who has filed eight motions for immunity, all of which have been denied. More typically, a judge will choose to have the case go to trial, where the defendant must take his or her chance with a jury, just like other criminal defendants, he said.

I think that is all Trayvon’s family and their supporters want–a chance to see Zimmerman arrested and tried before a jury. Of course they also have the option of a civil suit, and that could mean that the homeowners’ association that allowed Zimmerman to run their neighborhood watch without doing a background check or requiring that he get training could be on the hook for millions of dollars.

I certainly hope that Angela Corey will factor into her decision the troubling racist history of the city of Sanford as well as the history of the Sanford Police Department’s failure to carefully investigate crimes against young black men.

Here’s a little Sanford history from WXEL public television:

The year before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by becoming the first African American to play major league baseball, he fled the racist threats of townspeople in Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was shot 66 years later.

It was 1946 and Robinson arrived in this picturesque town in central Florida for spring training with a Brooklyn Dodgers farm team. He didn’t stay long.

Robinson was forced to leave Sanford twice, according to Chris Lamb, a professor at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, who wrote a graphic account of Robinson’s brush with 100 angry locals in a 2004 book.

According to the article, there was still plenty of “racial tension” in Sanford even before the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and the failure of local police to arrest Zimmerman has brought the simmering resentment to the surface.

Last month, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held two town hall meetings in Sanford where hundreds of black residents turned out to voice their concern over police conduct….

NAACP officials compiled details at those meetings of at least six incidents involving alleged police misconduct that they plan to turn over to the Justice Department for possible investigation, an NAACP spokesman said.

HuffPo has a very good article on the racist bumbling Sanford Police Department. Check out this one example from a lengthy piece:

On the night of June 15, 2010, Ikeem Ruffin, 17, was shot and killed by a masked man during a robbery in an apartment complex in north Sanford. Ruffin had just left work and died wearing his McDonald’s uniform.

Police found 18-year-old Tarance Terrell Moore standing by the victim and calling for an ambulance, but the teen was already dead. The gun used in the killing was never recovered.

The next day, police charged Moore with robbery and murder in Ruffin’s death. He was denied bail and locked in Seminole County Jail awaiting trial.

More than a year later, Seminole County prosecutors dropped the murder charge, which carried a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, in exchange for a guilty plea to a charge of robbery with a firearm. Moore was sentenced to nine years in prison….

“He was there, but he wasn’t my son’s killer,” Ruffin said of Moore. “They just wanted to pin it on him and forget about the killer.”

So the kid shoots someone and then stands there calling for an ambulance? How much sense does that make. But police never investigated further after arresting Moore.

I just have a couple more items for you. Did you hear about Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley calling President Obama “stupid” on Twitter?

David Axelrod responded: “Heads up, Sen. Grassley. I think a 6-year-old hijacked your account and is sending out foolish Tweets just to embarrass you!” But I like Charlie Pierce’s response better:

This is…funny because, you see, if there’s one thing that Chuck Grassley is noted for, it is that he is the most spectacular box of rocks, the most bulging bag of hammers, in the history of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. If brains were atom bombs, he couldn’t blow his nose. If his IQ was one point lower, they’d have to water him. As the great Dan Jenkins once put it in another context, if the man had a brain, he’d be out in the yard playing with it.

Don’t take it from me. Ask anyone. “Stupid” is not a word for this fella to be tossing around idly, even if he did spell it out fully.

Finally, a very scary situation for some British youngsters that turned out to have a happy ending: Toddler on Easter egg hunt stumbles on live GRENADE… which has to be blown up by bomb squad.

Police called in the bomb squad yesterday after a three-year-old boy was spotted standing on a live hand grenade during an Easter egg hunt.

The grenade, believed to be a relic from the Second World War, was found in a field next to a busy road.

Yikes!

The egg-shaped hand grenade was spotted by father-of-three Stuart Moffatt, 34, at the event organised by a pre-school group.

Mr Moffatt, an engineering consultant, was there with his wife Victoria, 35, and their children Nelly, five, Isla, two, and 11-month-old Freddie.

He said: ‘We were beginning to count up the eggs at the end of the hunt and I saw a boy of three standing on an object.

‘It was brown and about 4 inches high. It looked like an Easter egg, but it was a hand grenade.

‘I was shocked. The boy who was standing on it thought it was a rock.’

Thank goodness all the kids are okay!

Sooooo….what stories have you been following today?


Has the FBI Ever Foiled a Real Terrorist Plot?

Amine El Khalifi, the latest victim of an FBI sting

Yesterday, the FBI arrested another fake terrorist, just one in a long line of potential “terrorists” who have been given training and equipment by the government and then busted as they try to carry out their “plots”–plots that seem to have been designed by–or at least strongly encouraged by–FBI agents. From The Washington Post:

Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol, the latest in a series of terrorism-related arrests resulting from undercover sting operations.

For more than a year, Amine El Khalifi, of Alexandria, considered attacking targets including a synagogue, an Alexandria building with military offices and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials, authorities said. When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.

The gun and vest were provided not by al-Qaeda, as Khalifi had been told, but by undercover FBI agents who rendered them inoperable, authorities said.

They said Khalifi had been the subject of a lengthy investigation and never posed a threat to the public….

Khalifi “allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Khalifi “devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.”

The Washington Post must think Americans are stupid. Emptywheel, who has done a great deal of research on these FBI sting operations, doesn’t seem to think Khalifi planned the “attack” by himself.

As is usual with most of FBI’s terrorist arrests of late, the FBI provided the suspect with the weapons he would have used to attack the target–in this case, the Capitol. As is usual, this appears to be an instance where the FBI found someone talking about violence–usually online–and then cultivated that violent desire over time.

So it seems like this is a now-familiar story.

Later in the post, she writes:

The FBI says his own plan was to be dropped off at the Capitol building.

But what happened instead is he did a Deep Throat in a parking garage to get his empty suicide vest.

So whose plan was he implementing, again?

I’m mentioning this arrest yesterday, because we’ve seen this repeated again and again. The FBI announces a big arrest and then later we learn that the whole plan was hatched by FBI agents who sucked in some angry kid and convinced him to commit some “terrorist act.”

On Thursday, just one day before the latest big FBI “terrorism” bust in DC, the so-called Underwear Bomber was sentenced to life in prison. ABC News (which also seems to think we’re stupid):

Umar Farouk Abulmatallab

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was the same remorseless man who four months ago pleaded guilty to all charges related to Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He seemed to relish the mandatory sentence and defended his actions as rooted in the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

“Mujahideen are proud to kill in the name of God,” he said. “Today is a day of victory.”

Had the bomb not fizzled, nearly 300 people aboard the flight would probably have been killed.

The case stirred renewed fears that terrorists could still bring down an American jetliner more than eight years after 9/11, and it accelerated installation of body scanners at the nation’s airports.

Please note that Abdulmutallab “was subdued by fellow passengers,” not anyone from law enforcement. Before the sentencing, four passengers and a member of the crew from Flight 253 were allowed to give victim impact statements. One of those statements came from Detroit attorney Kurt Haskell, whom the ABC “news” story characterizes as follows:

Because he was a passenger, Detroit-area lawyer Kurt Haskell was allowed to publicly repeat his wild claim that the U.S. government outfitted Abdulmutallab with a defective bomb partly to force the rollout of body-imaging machines at airports.

Kurt and Lori Haskell, who were on Flight 253

Is Haskell really making a “wild claim?” Here is his statement to the court:

I wish to thank the Court for allowing me these 5 minutes to make my statement. My references to the government in this statement refer to the Federal Government excluding this Court and the prosecution. On Christmas Day 2009, my wife and I were returning from an African safari and had a connecting flight through Amsterdam. As we waited for our flight, we sat on the floor next to the boarding gate. What I witnessed while sitting there and subsequent events have changed my life forever. While I sat there, I witnessed Umar dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt, being escorted around security by a man in a tan suit who spoke perfect American English and who aided Umar in boarding without a passport. The airline gate worker initially refused Umar boarding until the man in the tan suit intervened. The event meant nothing to me at the time. Little did I know that Umar would try to kill me a few hours later as our flight approached Detroit. The final 10 minutes of our flight after the attack were the worst minutes of my life. During those 10 minutes I sat paralyzed in fear. Unfortunately, what happened next has had an even greater impact on my life and has saddened me further.

When we landed, I was shocked that our plane taxied up to the gate. I was further shocked that we were forced to sit on the plane for 20 minutes with powder from the so called bomb all over the cabin. The officers that boarded the plane did nothing to ensure our safety and did not check for accomplices or other explosive devices. Several passengers trampled through parts of the bomb as they exited the plane. We were then taken into the terminal with our unchecked carry on bags. Again, there was no concern for our safety even though Umar told the officers that there was another bomb on board as he exited the plane. I wondered why nobody was concerned about our safety, accomplices or other bombs and the lack of concern worried me greatly. I immediately told the FBI my story in order to help catch the accomplice I had seen in Amsterdam. It soon became obvious that the FBI wasn’t interested in what I had to say, which upset me further. For one month the government refused to admit the existence of the man in the tan suit before changing course and admitting his existence in an ABC News article on January 22, 2010. That was the last time the government talked about this man. The video that would prove the truth of my account has never been released. I continue to be emotional upset that the video has not been released. The Dutch police, meanwhile, in this article (show article), also confirmed that Umar did not show his passport in Amsterdam which also meant that he didn’t go through security as both are in the same line in Amsterdam. It upsets me that the government refuses to admit this fact.

I became further saddened from this case, when Patrick Kennedy of the State Department during Congressional hearings, admitted that Umar was a known terrorist, was being followed, and the U.S. allowed him into the U.S. so that it could catch Umar’s accomplices. I was once again shocked and saddened when Michael Leiter of the National Counter terrorism Center admitted during these same hearings that intentionally letting terrorists into the U.S. was a frequent practice of the U.S. Government. I cannot fully explain my sadness, disappointment and fear when I realized that my government allowed an attack on me intentionally.

During this time, I questioned if my country intentionally put a known terrorist onto my flight with a live bomb. I had many sleepless nights over this issue. My answer came shortly thereafter. In late 2010, the FBI admitted to giving out intentionally defective bombs to the Portland Christmas Tree Bomber,the Wrigley Field Bomber and several others. Further, Mr. Chambers was quoted in the Free Press on January 11, 2011 when he indicated that the government’s own explosives experts had indicated that Umar’s bomb was impossibly defective. I wondered how that could be. Certainly, I thought, Al Qaeda wouldn’t go through all of the trouble to plan such an attack only to provide the terrorist with an impossibly defective bomb.

I attended nearly all of the pretrial hearings. At the hearing on January 28, 2011, I was greatly disappointed by the prosecution’s request to block evidence from Mr. Chambers “as it could then be able to be obtained by third parties, who could use it in a civil suit against the government”. It really bothered me that the government apparently was admitting to wrongdoing of some kind as it admitted that it was concerned it would be sued. It further upset me to know that the government was putting its own interests ahead of those of the passengers.

When I attended the jury selection hearings, I questioned why versions of the same two questions kept coming up, those being:

1. Do you think whether you’ll be able to tell whether something is actually a bomb? and
2. Do you realize that sometimes the media doesn’t always tell the truth?

I continued to be greatly saddened at this point as I felt the truth continued to be hidden.

When Umar listed me as his only witness, I was happy to testify, not on his behalf, but on behalf of the truth. I never expected to testify, as my eyewitness account would have been too damaging to the myth that the government and media are putting forward. A mere 5 days after I was announced as a witness, there was an inexplicable guilty plea which exasperated me as I no longer would be testifying.

In closing I will just say that regardless of how the media and government try to shape the public perception of this case, I am convinced that Umar was given an intentionally defective bomb by a U.S. Government agent and placed on our flight without showing a passport or going through security, to stage a false terrorist attack to be used to implement various government policies.

The effect this matter has had on my life has been astounding and due to this case, I will never trust the government in any matter, ever.

In regards to sentencing, nothing I’ve said excuses the fact that Umar tried to kill me. He has waived his valid claim to the entrapment defense. Umar, you are not a great Muslim martyr, you are merely a “Patsy”. I ask the court to impose the mandatory sentence.

Haskell’s wife Lori says that she was treated pretty badly by the judge in the case. No one really wanted her or her husband to tell about what they saw and experienced on Christmas Day 2009.

I imagine Joseph Cannon and/or Emptywheel will write about this case again soon. They are both much better at this kind of thing than I am, so I thought I would just lay the facts out for you as I see them. If you are interested in more information, you can read Cannon’s previous posts on the underwear bomber here and Emptywheel’s here.

What do you think? (Keeping in mind that former DHS head Michael Chertoff made big bucks from the naked body scanners now being used by the TSA.)


Tuesday Reads: Cantor’s Conflict, Libertarian Cruelty, bin Laden’s DNA, and a Cold Case Solved

Good Morning!! I’ll take my coffee iced today, because it’s hotter than hell here in the Boston area. And about 110 percent humidity. OK, let’s get to the news.

The Washington Post has a laudatory profile of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his refusal to negotiate on raising the Federal debt ceiling–without ever mentioning that Cantor stands to make lots of money if the U.S. defaults on its debts.

Last month, Cantor walked out of talks led by Vice President Biden. Cantor said the reason was Democrats’ insistence on raising taxes as part of a deal to increase the national debt ceiling.

Then, last week, Cantor urged House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to reject a possible “grand bargain” with President Obama, which could have included tax increases. Boehner pulled Republicans out of those talks.

Now, as Cantor joins other leaders at the White House for near-daily summits in the third different grouping of negotiators, his moves have revealed him as a third major player in a legislative drama that had been dominated by Obama and Boehner. Where Boehner has sought to define what Republicans can do with their newfound power, Cantor, the House’s ambitious number-two, wants to underline what Republicans would never do.

So what is Cantor’s negotiating strategy?

On Monday, with a potential default less than a month away, Cantor was asked to identify compromises that Republicans had offered to help negotiations along.

He told reporters that the negotiation itself was a compromise.

“I don’t think the White House understands how difficult it is for fiscal conservatives to say they are going to vote for a debt-ceiling increase,” Cantor said.

Gee, it wasn’t all that hard to increase the debt ceiling again and again under Bush, now was it? But maybe in those days Cantor wasn’t betting against the U.S. in his financial investments. It’s very troubling that the Post didn’t mention Cantor’s humongous conflict of interest.

According to a new Washington Post-Pew poll, increasing numbers of Americans are “very concerned” about a U.S. default, but they are also “concerned” that raising the limit will lead to out-of-control spending.

The twin, divergent, concerns complicate the political calculus for the White House and congressional leaders as they attempt to strike an agreement. Nearly eight in 10 Americans are worried about raising the debt limit, and about three-quarters are concerned about not doing so.

Asked to choose, 42 percent see greater risk in a potential default stemming from not raising the debt limit, a seven-point increase from a Post-Pew poll six weeks ago. Slightly more, 47 percent, express deeper concern about lifting the limit, but the gap has narrowed.

Sixty-six percent of Republicans worry more about raising the debt limit than the U.S. defaulting on its debts. {sigh…}

Hipparchia has a wonderful post at Corrente that is an extended metaphor for libertarian attitudes about health care, specifically in reaction to the writings of a libertarian from the CATO Institute, Michael F. Cannon on the new Oregon health care plan. Here is the relevant quote from Cannon that set her off.

Michael F Cannon, of Cato@Liberty :

The OHIE establishes only that there are some (modest) benefits to expanding Medicaid (to poor people) (after one year). It tells us next to nothing about the costs of producing those benefits, which include not just the transfers from taxpayers but also any behavioral changes on the part of Medicaid enrollees, such as reductions in work effort or asset accumulation induced by this means-tested program. Nor does it tell us anything about the costs and benefits of alternative policies.

Reduction in work effort?? This would be really funny if Cannon weren’t so deadly serious. Providing health care to poor people means that more of them are just going to spend their days hanging out in parks, yakking on their cell phones , I guess. So, Libertarians are in favor of liberty for themselves and wage slavery for anybody else. Good to know.

Please go read the whole thing if you have time. It’s well worth the effort. We live in a world of selfish, greedy narcissistic fops. How can the country survive them?

Joseph Cannon has a short but pithy post on the media’s obsession with Casey Anthony being found not guilty. He then points out that the media has completely ignored the fact that

In 1995, when the Presidency was in the hands of the despised Bill Clinton, government regulators overseeing skullduggery on Wall Street referred 1,837 cases to the Justice Department for prosecution. That number has gone down. Between 2007 and 2010, the Justice Department has received just 72 referrals a year (on average).

Gosh. How can this be? I guess investment bankers are simply more honest than they used to be.

You won’t see this issue discussed on CNN. It’s not newsworthy.

I did not know that. Thank you Joseph Cannon. F&ck you CNN (and HLN and Nancy Grace).

Here’s an interesting story from The Guardian UK: CIA organised fake vaccination drive to get Osama bin Laden’s family DNA

As part of extensive preparations for the raid that killed Bin Laden in May, CIA agents recruited a senior Pakistani doctor to organise the vaccine drive in Abbottabad, even starting the “project” in a poorer part of town to make it look more authentic, according to Pakistani and US officials and local residents.

The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has since been arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) for co-operating with American intelligence agents.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad, already severely strained by the Bin Laden operation, have deteriorated considerably since then. The doctor’s arrest has exacerbated these tensions. The US is understood to be concerned for the doctor’s safety, and is thought to have intervened on his behalf.

The vaccination plan was conceived after American intelligence officers tracked an al-Qaida courier, known as Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, to what turned out to be Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound last summer. The agency monitored the compound by satellite and surveillance from a local CIA safe house in Abbottabad, but wanted confirmation that Bin Laden was there before mounting a risky operation inside another country.

DNA from any of the Bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.

Jeralyn at Talk Left has finally decided that Obama deserves to get a pink slip. Yes, I know, she should have known better. But please go read anyway.

I’m going to end with a story about a long ago murdered child and how the case has been solved–54 years later. Maria Ridulph disappeared in 1957 when she was 7 years old. Maria and her best friend Kathy were playing on the street one day.

Kathy Chapman, who was 8 at the time, recalled that she and Maria were under a corner streetlight when a young man she knew as “Johnny” offered them a piggyback ride. Chapman, now 61 and living in St. Charles, Ill., told the AP she ran home to get mittens and that when she returned, Maria and the man were gone.

Maria’s disappearance and death had a powerful effect on her small community.

Charles “Chuck” Ridulph always assumed the person who stole his little sister from the neighborhood corner where she played and dumped her body in a wooded stretch some 100 miles away was a trucker or passing stranger — surely not anyone from the hometown he remembers as one big, friendly playground.

And, after more than a half century passed since her death, he assumed the culprit also had died or was in prison for some other crime.

On Saturday, he said he was stunned by the news that a one-time neighbor had been charged in the kidnapping and killing that captured national attention, including that of the president and FBI chief. Prosecutors in bucolic Sycamore, a city of 15,000 that’s home to a yearly pumpkin festival, charged a former police officer Friday in the 1957 abduction of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph after an ex-girlfriend’s discovery of an unused train ticket blew a hole in his alibi.

Maria Ridulph

From the Seattle Times:

A judge in Seattle set bail Monday at $3 million for Jack Daniel McCullough, of Seattle, a former police officer who denies he is the man Illinois police have been seeking in the 1957 slaying of a young girl….

McCullough, 71, a former police officer in Milton and Lacey, has been living in North Seattle and working as a night watchman in a senior-housing facility, Four Freedoms.

McCullough, 18 at the time of the girl’s death, had been a suspect early in the investigation. He lived about a block from where the girl disappeared and matched the description of a man seen at the site.

At the time, police did not show Maria’s best friend Kathy a picture of their suspect. But last year, they showed her a picture of the teenaged McCullough (then using the last name Tessier) and she recognized him.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Does anyone have a remedy for the sleepies? I recently finished a semester of teaching, and the last couple of days I’ve been extremely groggy. Yesterday I even slept until 10:30AM! It doesn’t help that we haven’t seen the sun in the Boston area for at least a week–it’s dark, dank, and raw out there. It seems a lot more like November than late May. On top of all that my Spring allergies are the worst I’ve ever experienced. So please forgive me if this post makes no sense. On to the news of the day.

Disgraced IMF honcho Dominque Strauss-Kahn’s accuser testified before a New York grand jury today. Immediately following her testimony, Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys announced their determination to spring their client from his cell at Rikers Island Jail.

His lawyers initially proposed a $1 million bail package that was rejected by the court.

Today a new offer that was said to add a private monitoring firm, an electronic bracelet and a guard to the package was put together. The cash component of the bail package remained at $1 million dollars, but the deal now included a guarantee that Strauss-Kahn would remain confined in New York City and not leave his residence except for visits to his doctor or lawyers. His passports and travel documents have already been taken from him.

According to ABC News, police are testing body fluids found in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel room for DNA.

ABC News has confirmed that police cut a swath of carpet to test for DNA and swabbed one of the suite’s sinks under a black light that indicated there was potential DNA evidence there.

Apparently Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys plan to claim that their client’s sexual encounter with a hotel maid was “consensual,” but there is a serious problem with that theory in addition to the maid’s testimony.

Investigators also say information downloaded from the suite door’s electronic card reader indicates the maid entered the room and never closed the door. The hotel policy requires maids to leave the door open when cleaning. The open door, they say, is proof that the women entered the room to work, not to engage in consensual sex.

I won’t dwell on this sordid story much longer, but I did want to call your attention to this piece in Time Magazine, which details a number of previous accusations against Strauss-Kahn–along with rumors –gossip about his abusive behavior toward women–that were hushed up until now. How predictable these guys are!

Joseph Cannon’s latest post is a must-read, along with the New Yorker article by Jane Mayer on which the Cannon comments. It’s about the domestic spying by the NSA that went on under Bush and the Obama administration’s heavy handed prosecution of whistleblowers while at the same time protecting the Bush administration criminals. (Minkoff Minx also mentioned Mayer’s article in her morning post yesterday.) Here’s an introduction to the piece by Cannon:

This humble blog spent a lot of time talking about NSA overreach during the controversies over Russell Tice and FISA. Meyer’s piece confirms a long-held suspicion that the real problem wasn’t eavesdropping on telephone calls but automated data-mining of all forms of electronic communication.

Two competing computer systems were designed to take us into this brave new world: ThinThread and Trailblazer. (The system in place now is called Turbulence. Someone at NSA has a strange affection for the letter T — which is also the first letter in totalitarian.) Trailblazer turned out to be a costly boondoggle. ThinThread worked. Originally, it had provisions built in to protect the privacy of American citizens; NSA Director Haybed tossed out those barriers.

Meyer focuses on an NSA whistleblower named Thomas Drake, who tried to blow the whistle on the Trailblazer fiasco — and on the abuses of privacy — to a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee. Unfortunately, the Committee was headed, at the time, by Porter Goss — and by Nancy Pelosi. They both seemed deaf to what Drake had to say.

Why is Obama so obsessed with prosecuting whistleblowers–even to the point of dusting off the Espionage Act? Jane Mayer writes:

When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book “Necessary Secrets” (2010), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”

Mayer asked Drake about it:

Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”

“But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

Check out her article if you can. She’s one of the best investigative reporters we have.

You may have missed Dakinikat’s late night post on Tuesday–the one about exploding watermelons. I thought this story deserved a little more emphasis, because it shows what can happen when there are no government regulations on agriculture–and industry in general (and that is what the Republicans would love to make happen). From Raw Story:

A bizarre wave of exploding watermelons — possibly due to farmers’ abuse of a growth-boosting chemical — has once again spotlighted safety fears plaguing China’s poorly regulated food sector.

State media has said nearly 50 hectares (120 acres) of watermelon crops in the eastern city of Danyang have been ruined by the phenomenon this month after some growers doused them with the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron.

“On May 7, I came out and counted 80 (exploded watermelons), but by the afternoon it was 100,” farmer Liu Mingsuo told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in a report that aired Tuesday. He said he had sprayed them with the chemical just a day before.

Remind me to never buy any food produce in China!!

Have you heard that the Obama campaign is selling T-shirts and coffee cups that mock the “birthers?”

President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign today started selling “Made in the USA” t-shirts featuring images of both President Obama and the long-form birth certificate he released copies of last month.

Wear your support for this campaign with an official Made in the USA T-shirt,” his website advertises. Donate $25 or more today and we’ll send you your limited-edition shirt.

Coffee-mugs are also available.

“Remember ‘fight the smears’ from the 2008 campaign?” asked campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “This is the mobile version of it.”

Quite frankly, I think this is a little bit tacky….but that’s just me. And speaking of tasteless behavior, the Catholic Church is attempting to blame the ’60s counterculture for the behavior pedophile priests. From the Guardian UK:

The investigation commissioned by Catholic bishops said that the peak incidence of sexual abuse by priests in the 1960s and 70s reflected the increased level of other deviant behaviours in American society in the period, including “drug use and crime, as well as social changes, such as an increase in premarital sex and divorce.”

Researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice said most of the abusive priests were ordained in the 1940s and 50s and were not properly trained to confront the social upheavals of the 1960s.

David O’Brien, a historian of American Catholicism at the University of Dayton, said the report, Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, was dangerous because it seemed to exonerate bishops.

The study also ignores the long history of sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy. Methinks these “researchers” told the Catholic Bishops what they wanted to hear rather than do any serious research.

Finally, President Obama plans to give another “most amazing speech evah” tomorrow. This one is on the Middle East and North Africa. According to Voice of America:

The speech will be broad in scope, as Mr. Obama focuses on the peaceful democratic movements for change that have swept the region, discusses implications for U.S. policy, and offers what administration officials call some concrete policy proposals.

He will give his assessment of the impact of popular uprisings that have led to political changes in Egypt and Tunisia, and which continue in places like Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Senior administration officials say Mr. Obama will speak of a moment of opportunity, after a decade of great tensions and divisions, in which people of the region and U.S. policy can begin to turn the page toward a more positive and hopeful future.

The stalemated Israel-Palestinian peace process will be an important element. However, Mr. Obama is expected to frame it as part of a wider picture and say that leaders on both sides of that conflict should seize an opportunity for peace.

Whatever….I think I’ll arrange to be busy while he’s speechifying. Anyway, what are you reading and blogging about today?


Some Alternative Takes on the Killing of Osama bin Laden

First of all, I think Joseph Cannon has it right. There is no way Obama sent just two helicopters into Pakistan to kill Public Enemy No. 1. The Pakistanis knew what was happening and cooperated–either willingly or unwillingly. Either the Pakistan government, military, and intelligence services wanted plausible deniability or the U.S. pressured them into going along with the assassination. I don’t believe for one minute that Obama wanted to take bin Laden alive. Here’s Cannon’s take:

Allow me to suggest one possible scenario. Let us suppose the Bin Laden daughter Safia was correct when she said that her father was captured and then executed. (Frankly, I think that’s a fairly good bet.) Both the body and the post-mortum photos would provide evidence of the execution. A close-range shot leaves powder burns and other evidence.

This hypothesis would also explain the changing stories about whether Obama and Clinton watched the operation on video in real time. (I feel certain that they did.) I suspect that they realized belatedly that they would need plausible deniability if the truth of the execution ever came out: “I am shocked, shocked to learn about this. At the time, I had no idea…”

After reading Cannon’s piece, I think it makes sense that Obama and the rest of his team did see the kill shots, but they’ll never admit it. I also think Cannon makes a lot of sense when he brings in the question of Al Qaeda and the drug trade.

The connection between the ISI and Al Qaeda primarily involved drugs. That’s the factor which everyone keeps forgetting about. Yet it is key.

It should also not be forgotten that the ISI has strong links to the CIA. America was perhaps the primary market for Afghanistan’s poppy product, and thus it was necessary for the Bin Laden network to maintain ties with powerful people in this country.

I haven’t yet formulated a proper theory about all of this. But it seems to me that the answer to the mysteries surrounding the life and death of Osama Bin Laden may revolve around the drug connection.

Via Truthdig, former CIA agent Robert Baer basically agrees with Joseph Cannon. In this radio interview, Baer says that the Pakistan government must have known where bin Laden was and it is highly unlikely that they weren’t involved in the operation. He says the chances of a foreigner living in a heavily secured compound in that area filled with military and security people is zero. Baer also says if the U.S. had done this, there would have been a much sharper reaction from Pakistan–they would have closed the U.S. embassy and thrown all Americans out of the country. According to Baer, those Black Hawk helicopters are extremely slow and they would have been seen for hours flying in from Afghanistan, and if Obama had sent two helicopters in alone, he would be extremely daring, but utterly foolish. No president has ever forgotten what happened to Jimmy Carter after his failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran.

There’s a lot more, you can listen to the interview if you’re interested. But the bottom line, as far as I’m concerned, is that our government thinks we’re stupid. They think we’ll believe whatever outrageous propaganda they feed us.

Next up, Noam Chomsky’s reactions. Like me, Chomsky thinks bin Laden should have been brought back here and put on trial.

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

That’s why I love Chomsky. He comes right out and says exactly what he really thinks. Here’s a little more:

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

I know you’ll want to read the whole thing–it’s not very long, but it’s powerful.

Tom Englehardt, of the American Empire Project and TomDispatch.com argues that Osama bin Laden achieved his goals–he wanted to destroy the U.S. economy and generally have an impact on American society and culture.

Unfortunately, in every way that matters for Americans, it’s an illusion that Osama bin Laden is dead. In every way that matters, he will fight on, barring a major Obama administration policy shift in Afghanistan, and it’s we who will ensure that he remains on the battlefield that George W. Bush’s administration once so grandiosely labeled the Global War on Terror.

[….]

Consider it an insult to irony, but the world bin Laden really changed forever wasn’t in the Greater Middle East. It was here. Cheer his death, bury him at sea, don’t release any photos, and he’ll still carry on as a ghost as long as Washington continues to fight its deadly, disastrous wars in his old neighborhood.

Let’s face it. We no long live in anything resembling freedom. The Constitution is on life support. Our economy is wrecked, and we may never get back to where we were. We’re living in the last days of a dying empire. And the American empire wasn’t much to write home about anyway–certainly it can’t compare to the one Rome built.

Economist Mark Weisbrot, writing in the Guardian expands on bin Laden’s goals and his vision of what he wanted to happen to the U.S.

Bin Laden, who – like Saddam Hussein and other infamous mass murderers – was supported by the United Stated government for years before he turned against it, changed the world with the most destructive terrorist act ever committed on US soil. But the reasons that he was able to do that have as much to do with US foreign policy at that particular juncture as with his own strategy and goals.

Bin Laden’s goal was not, as some think, simply to bring down the US empire. That is a goal shared by most of the world, who – fortunately for us – would not use terrorist violence to further this outcome. His specific goal was to transform the struggle between the United States and popular aspirations in the Muslim world into a war against Islam, or at least create the impression for many millions of people that this was the case. As we look around the world 10 years after the attack, we can see that he had considerable success in this goal. The United States is occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing Pakistan and Libya, and threatening Iran – all Muslim countries. To a huge part of the Muslim world, it looks like the United States is carrying out a modern-day crusade against them, despite President Obama’s assertions to contrary Sunday night.

George W. Bush happily obliged by inventing the “War on Terror.” And his successor, Barack Obama is now willingly carrying the torch. We should pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, since the bogey man is dead. But that won’t happen.

Weisbrot says that the WOT made al Qaeda stronger and bin Laden probably knew that would happen:

Could bin Laden have known that the US response to 9/11 would have made his movement even stronger, even if he lost his base in Afghanistan? I would say it is likely. While it was not predictable that President Bush would necessarily invade Iraq – although it was a strong possibility – it was foreseeable that the US government would seize on 9/11 to create a new overarching theme for its interventions throughout the world.

The administration and the media are already searching for a new bogey man, and working hard to gin up as much outrage as possible among gullible Americans. The latest effort is the release of bin Laden’s home movies. But we only get video–no sound. Why doesn’t our government allow us to hear what’s going on in videos? Are they afraid bin Laden’s words will influence us? And why do they keep calling bin Laden’s home a “lair?” Is that supposed to make us see him and his family as animals?

Finally, what are we to make of the video below–Osama bin Laden watching himself on television? Are we supposed see him as narcissistic and self-involved? Are we expected to compare this aging man watching himself on TV with our glorious hero President who would supposedly never do such a thing?

How very appropriate that the video begins with a Coors Beer ad. It fits right in with the sports motif that is building around the killing of the bogey man: USA! USA! and all that….