Posted: May 23, 2013 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Barack Obama, Crime, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Boston Marathon bombings, Boston Police Department, Chechen community, Chechnya, closing Guantanamo, COINTELPRO, drones, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, Emptywheel, FBI High Value Interrogation Group, homeland security, Ibragim Todashev, Kade Crockford, Massachusetts ACLU, National Defense University speech, National Response Center, Occupy Boston, Orlando FBI shooting, Reuters special report, spying on peace and environmental activists, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Waltham MA triple murder, Watertown 2011 drug bust, West Tx fertilizer plant explosion |
Newsstand in Copley Square, Boston
I have lots of news updates for you today.
First, as I’m sure you heard, the Obama administration has finally admitted that it has killed four American citizens with drone strikes. Charlie Savage reported in The New York Times yesterday that President Obama will give a speech this afternoon at the National Defense University in which he will
open a new phase in the nation’s long struggle with terrorism on Thursday by restricting the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military….
As part of the shift in approach, the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, arguing that its actions were justified by the danger to the United States. Mr. Obama approved providing new information to Congress and the public about the rules governing his attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies.
A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists.
Lethal force will be used only against targets who pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot feasibly be captured, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Congress, suggesting that threats to a partner like Afghanistan or Yemen alone would not be enough to justify being targeted.
Savage writes that Obama may eliminate drone attacks on groups of men assumed to be associated with al Qaeda that in the past have also killed many innocent civilians. He will also argue for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison and renewing efforts to return inmates to their “home countries.” CNN also has a helpful article on the President’s speech and proposed policy changes.
The speech will be at 2PM, and I will post a live blog if people are interested in watching it together. I’m sure it will be live streamed at C-Span and other news sites.
Important update on West, Texas disaster.
Yesterday evening Reuters released their own “Special Report.” on the situation.
(Reuters) – The fertilizer-plant explosion that killed 14 and injured about 200 others in Texas last month highlights the failings of a U.S. federal law intended to save lives during chemical accidents, a Reuters investigation has found.
Known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, the law requires companies to tell emergency responders about the hazardous chemicals stored on their properties. But even when companies do so, the law stops there: After the paperwork is filed, it is up to the companies and local firefighters, paramedics and police to plan and train for potential disasters.
West Fertilizer Co of West, Texas, had a spotty reporting record. Still, it had alerted a local emergency-planning committee in February 2012 that it stored potentially deadly chemicals at the plant. Firefighters and other emergency responders never acted upon that information to train for the kind of devastating explosion that happened 14 months later, according to interviews with surviving first responders, a failing that likely cost lives.
It’s a complex story, and you really should read the whole thing, because the West disaster is not an isolated incident.
The lack of preparedness endangers not only firefighters and emergency medical technicians, but also people nationwide living near chemical stockpiles similar to those that exploded in West.
At least 800,000 people in the United States live within a mile of 440 sites that store potentially explosive ammonium nitrate, which investigators say was the source of the explosion in West, according to a Reuters analysis of hazardous-chemical storage data maintained by 29 states.
Hundreds of schools, 20 hospitals, 13 churches and hundreds of thousands of homes in those states sit within a mile of facilities that store the compound, used in both fertilizers and explosives, the analysis found.
The rest of the states either refused to provide Reuters with data, provided “incomplete data” or simply didn’t respond to their requests.
Since 1990, companies have reported more than 380 incidents involving ammonium nitrate to the National Response Center, a federal agency that collects reports of spills, leaks and other discharges within the United States. Eight people were killed, 66 injured and more than 6,300 evacuated in those incidents, according to the center’s data.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story, because reporting of these kinds of incidents is voluntary!
Update on Boston Bombing Investigation
I spent most of yesterday following breaking updates in the Boston Marathon bombing case, which continues to get stranger by the day.
Early yesterday morning, there were reports of the FBI fatally shooting a man in Orlando, Florida with connections to accused (deceased) Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. While the circumstance of the shooting are still not at all clear, here’s a brief summary of what I gleaned from reading hundreds of news reports.
Initially news reports said that a Chechen immigrant, Ibragim Todashev, had been shot by an unnamed FBI agent after Todashev attacked the agent with a knife during an interrogation at Todashev’s apartment house overnight. Todashev and a friend named Khusen Taramov had been interrogated for hours on Tuesday afternoon, according to Taramov. Then agents had let Taramov go while they continued questioning Todashev.
According to Taramov, he and his friend Todashev had been followed by law enforcement for some time and had been questioned previously. Todashev had been planning a trip home to Chechnya, but the FBI wanted wanted him to postpone it so they could continue to question him. The agents returned to question the two men further after midnight Wednesday when they learned that Todashev had decided to cancel his flight. That is when the shooting took place. At the time, two FBI agents from the Boston field office, two Massachusetts state troopers, and “other law enforcement” officers were present. It’s not clear who the other law enforcement officers were, but Emptywheel questioned yesterday whether they might have been from the FBI High Value Interrogation Group.
Later in the day it became clear that Todashev was considered a suspect in a shocking triple murder that took place in Waltham, MA two years ago on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Todashev lived in the Boston area–in Allston, Cambridge, and Watertown; and was acquainted with Tamerlan Tsarnaev through their mutual involvement in MMA mixed martial arts fighting and the two had spoken by phone or Skype about a month before the marathon bombings. Todashev is not suspected of involvement in those.
As I reported here previously, Tamerlan and Dzhokhor Tsarnaev had reportedly been connected to the murders by “forensic” evidence, presumably DNA. One of the murdered men was Tamerlan’s “best friend,” Brian Mess. The three men had their throats slit and their bodies were covered with large amounts of marijuana and $5,000 in cash. After the murders, both Tsarnaev brothers stopped seeing friends and Tamerlan did not even attend Mess’s funeral. Not long after, Tamerlan traveled to Dagestan and stayed in Russia for nearly seven months.
Back to yesterday’s events. Later reports indicated that Todarov did not have a knife when he “lunged” at the FBI agent, and it was no longer clear which law enforcement officer or officers had shot the “suspect.” A team of FBI agents are in Orlando to review the shooting, and perhaps we’ll learn more about what actually happened.
Multiple news sources have reported that Todashev had implicated himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the Waltham murders and that FBI agents were trying to get him to sign a written confession when he became enraged and attacked an agent, who sustained “non-life-threatening” injuries. Apparently Todashev didn’t want to sign whatever document the FBI agents had prepared for him. Since the FBI refuse to tape their interrogations, we may never know what the reported “implication” consisted of.
According to his friend Khusen Taramov, Todashev willingly answered the FBI’s questions.
The ex-roommate said Todashev shared the substance of his previous conversations with investigators with him and that he was completely forthcoming. That’s why he was surprised that Wednesday’s interview ended the way it did.
‘‘He told them everything,’’ Taramov said. ‘‘He told everything he knew. … I don’t know why that (the shooting) happened. It’s crazy.’’
But Taramov also said Todashev was afraid before Wednesday’s interview. ‘‘That’s what he asked me before he pretty much died,’’ Taramov said. ‘‘He asked me, ‘If something happens can you go out and tell all the truth, what exactly happened.’’’
It is clear that Todashev was prone to violence and people found him intimidating. He was involved in road rage incidents in Boston and Orlando.
Sorry I don’t have links for every detail, but the story is so complex and I’ve gotten information from so many sources that I thought it would be best for me to summarize it in my own words. There has been much more news breaking on this story, and I won’t try to include everything in this post. Anyone who is interested is welcome to ask me questions, and I’ll answer as best I can.
Here is one story from this morning from Fox Orlando: Moments leading to fatal FBI shooting in Orlando still unclear.
Federal and Central Florida law enforcement agencies are still collecting and processing evidence from the shooting scene at a condominium complex on Peregrine Avenue, near Kirkman Road and Universal Orlando, where Ibragim Todashev was shot early Wednesday.
Initially, FBI officials said Todashev, 27, became violent and lunged at an agent with a knife while he was being questioned about Tsarnaev and an unsolved 2011 triple murder in the Boston suburb of Waltham. The agent, acting on an “imminent threat,” then shot Todashev, they said.
Sources say Todashev, a Russian national living legally in Florida, was about to confess to the Waltham slaying when the shooting took place.
However, officials have backed off that preliminary account, and it’s no longer clear what happened in the moments before the fatal shooting.
“I heard a couple of loud bangs and saw a couple of cop cars riding by,” said Jared Morse, who lives in the area. “They wouldn’t let anyone out to see anything or anything like that, so they made us go back inside.”
There is one more possible connection between the Waltham murders and a massive drug bust that took place several months earlier in Watertown MA, in May 2011. It “followed a year-long investigation by federal authorities and resulted in charges against 18 people.” This was mentioned in a Washington Post Story yesterday that some friends of one of the murdered men believed there was a connection. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s likely the Tsarnaev brothers were financing their lifestyles with illegal activities, including drugs and possibly some kind of scam involving luxury cars.
Finally, a must-read article on the Boston saga and the failures of the Homeland Security Department and the Boston Police Department: BRIC-ED IN: WHY THE BPD DIDN’T THINK THAT TAMERLAN TSARNAEV WAS A KILLER. It’s a cautionary tale for anyone who lives in a large city that could be a terrorist target. Basically, the article describes how the BPD ignored terror warnings and instead spent millions on surveillance of Occupy Boston and other peace and environmental groups. COINTELPRO all over again. One representative of the Massachusetts ACLU had some suggestions.
According to Kade Crockford, who tracks the BRIC for the ACLU of Massachusetts, it’s about time that authorities reconsider their priorities. “A big question,” she says, “is whether efforts to build a bigger intelligence haystack may actually be less effective than improving traditional policing methods that focus on solving crimes …”
“Perhaps instead of extensively monitoring activists who are petitioning the government through the democratic process, law enforcement resources should focus on investigating and solving actual crimes, starting with murder.”
“Fewer resources tracking peace activists and more focus on traditional homicide detective work might be the best way to ensure a world in which we are both safe and free.”
I’ll end there, and open the floor to anything you want to discuss. Please post your links in the comments and have a great Thursday!
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Posted: October 6, 2011 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: #Occupy and We are the 99 percent!, 2012 presidential campaign, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Christopher Benfry, Elizabeth Warren, Erin Burnett, Ezra Klein, George Will, Glenn Greenwald, Larry McMurtry, Massachusetts Senate race, Mitt Romney, Occupy Boston, occupy Wall Street, Rick Perry, Robert Reich, Scott Brown |
Good Morning!! I’m going to be heading back to Boston pretty soon, and I’m looking forward to following developments in Occupy Boston and in the Senate race. They haven’t started an Occupy Muncie protest yet, unfortunately. But you never know. This town is really suffering from the poor economy.
At Mother Jones, there is an interactive map of all the Occupy protests that have sprung up around the country. It’s pretty amazing. Funny thing. A few days ago MJ had a post by Lauren Ellis in which she looked down her nose at the #OccupyWallStreet protesters. Now they have a whole section on the Occupy Movement.
There are still plenty of so-called “journalists” dismissing the protests though. Yesterday, I posted a link to Andrew Ross Sorkin’s piece in the NYT in which he reports his trip to Zuccotti Park at the request of a anonymous nervous Wall Street CEO. Glenn Greenwald skewered Sorkin but good, concluding that Sorkin’s
CEO banking friend is right to be concerned: if not about this protest in particular then about the likelihood of social unrest generally, emerging as a result of their plundering and pilfering. That healthy fear on the part of the oligarchs has been all too absent.
Greenwald also linked to this example of “snotty, petty, pseudointellectual condescension” at The New Republic. Ugh! Read it if you dare.
Yesterday, Greenwald followed up by verbally destroying CNN’s new nighttime host, Erin Burnett.
On her new CNN show on Monday night, host Erin Burnett was joined by Rudy Giuliani’s former speechwriter John Avlon and together they heaped condescending scorn on the Wall Street protests while defending the banking industry, offering — as FAIR documented — several misleading statements along the way. Burnett “reported” that while she “saw dancing, bongo drums, even a clown” at the protest, the participants “did not know what they want,” except that “it seems like people want a messiah leader, just like they did when they anointed Barack Obama.” She featured a video clip of herself explaining to one of the protesters that the U.S. Government made money from TARP, and then demanded to know if that changed his negative views of Wall Street.
This is far from the first time Burnett has served as spokesperson for Wall Street; it’s basically what her “journalistic” career is. She angered Bill Maher a couple years ago when arguing that the rich have suffered along with the poor and middle class as part of the financial crisis, and that it would be wrong to “soak the rich” because they’re already paying so much taxes. She caused Rush Limbaugh to gush over her when she argued on TV in 2007 that all Americans benefit when the rich get richer: “the majority of Americans directly benefit from what happens on Wall Street,” she proclaimed, just over a year before the financial collapse.
In an interview last year with Vanity Fair, she insisted that people on Wall Street do not have private planes and that “there are a lot of stalwart, solid people on Wall Street. There are just a few shady people providing the fodder for big budget movies…”
Beltway Bob Ezra Klein has some advice for #OccupyWallStreet: they should immediately start taking advice from the liberal establishment and focus on developing policy and writing legislation in order to work through the system that they have already rejected.
The Wall Street protests seem to be gathering strength and expanding beyond the geographic limits of downtown Manhattan. The media, too, is finally amplifying the story. Whether they will grow larger and sustain themselves beyond these initial street actions will depend upon four things: the work of skilled organizers; the success of those organizers in getting people, once these events end, to meet over and over and over again; whether or not the movement can promote public policy solutions that are organically linked to the quotidian lives of its supporters; and the ability of liberalism’s infrastructure of intellectuals, writers, artists and professionals to expend an enormous amount of their cultural capital in support of the movement.
There’s lots more, but it’s basically a lecture from someone who just doesn’t get it. And speaking of people who don’t get it, George Will tries to school Elizabeth Warren in his latest column. According to Will, the “liberal project,” which Warren apparently speaks for is designed to destroy rugged individualism.
The project is to dilute the concept of individualism, thereby refuting respect for the individual’s zone of sovereignty. The regulatory state, liberalism’s instrument, constantly tries to contract that zone — for the individual’s own good, it says….
Such an agenda’s premise is that individualism is a chimera, that any individual’s achievements should be considered entirely derivative from society, so the achievements need not be treated as belonging to the individual. Society is entitled to socialize — i.e., conscript — whatever portion it considers its share. It may, as an optional act of political grace, allow the individual the remainder of what is misleadingly called the individual’s possession.
The collectivist agenda is antithetical to America’s premise, which is: Government — including such public goods as roads, schools and police — is instituted to facilitate individual striving, a.k.a. the pursuit of happiness. The fact that collective choices facilitate this striving does not compel the conclusion that the collectivity (Warren’s “the rest of us”) is entitled to take as much as it pleases of the results of the striving.
But isn’t that what Warren is pushing for? For more individuals to have opportunities to make it in America? Really, isn’t it time for George Will to retire?
Meanwhile Warren is leading in the race for the Massachusetts Democratic nomination for Senate, and she appeared in her first debate on Tuesday at my undergraduate alma mater, U. Mass Lowell.
In her first debate as a candidate for U.S. Senate Tuesday night, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren declined to criticize her fellow Democratic candidates, taking aim instead at Republican Sen. Scott Brown, whom the Democratic nominee will face, and Wall Street.
“Forbes magazine named Scott Brown Wall Street’s favorite senator. I was thinking that’s probably not an award I’m going to get,” she said to applause and laughter from the audience at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Two recent polls put Warren and Brown in a statistical tie.
She also made the audience laugh and applaud with the second question, which asked each candidate how they paid for college, since Brown posed nude for Cosmopolitan to pay.
“I kept my clothes on,” she quipped. She added that she borrowed money to go to a public university and had a part-time job.
Warren also drew applause for her tough talk on Wall Street. “The people on Wall Street broke this country, and they did it one lousy mortgage at a time. It happened more than three years ago, and there has been no real accountability, and there has been no real effort to fix it. That’s why I want to run for the United States Senate,” she said.
Go Elizabeth go!!
Another voice for the middle class, Robert Reich, explains why Wall Street is extremely nervous about the economic crisis in Europe.
If you want the real reason, follow the money. A Greek (or Irish or Spanish or Italian or Portugese) default would have roughly the same effect on our financial system as the implosion of Lehman Brothers in 2008.
Financial chaos….a default by Greece or any other of Europe’s debt-burdened nations could easily pummel German and French banks, which have lent Greece (and the other wobbly European countries) far more.
That’s where Wall Street comes in. Big Wall Street banks have lent German and French banks a bundle.
The Street’s total exposure to the euro zone totals about $2.7 trillion. Its exposure to to France and Germany accounts for nearly half the total.
And it’s not just Wall Street’s loans to German and French banks that are worrisome. Wall Street has also insured or bet on all sorts of derivatives emanating from Europe — on energy, currency, interest rates, and foreign exchange swaps. If a German or French bank goes down, the ripple effects are incalculable.
Read the rest at Huffpo.
There are a couple of interesting reads about Republican candidates at the New York Review of Books. The first is by novelist Larry McMurtry: The Rick Perry Hustle Here’s a brief sample:
What Perry has brought to the Republican muddle thus far is his abundant, if unfocused, energy. He rushes from debate to debate, gives many interviews, gets his picture on the cover of TIME; yet all his politicking is curiously affectless. He makes sounds, but where’s the personality? Hillary Clinton has a personality; so does Sarah Palin. Either of those women could cut Governor Perry off at the knees, and will if given the chance.
It’s not been said so I’ll say it: as a politician Rick Perry is fundamentally lazy, so far as actual governing is concerned, content to run things mainly by sound-bite. He makes lots of decisions but lingers on no issue very long; there’s little follow-through. Clemency, or its absence, is an example. Two hundred thirty-four humans have been executed in Texas on his watch and only recently has he been stirred to a review. He believes that the State Board of Pardons and Paroles is so infallible that there’s no reason for him to lose sleep over the fate of this or that prisoner. The Governor has much more confidence in the Board than the Board has in itself; its members are well aware that even, or especially in Texas shaky verdicts have come down. The Governor, a man with a notably short attention span, has a lot more to think about than the death chamber.
An irony of his sudden emergence as a front-runner is that his few humane decisions—the HPV vaccine, which is safe and helpful, and the tuition credit for the children of illegals, which could help keep gangs of feral children off our streets—are what may sink him with the Tea Party and his own rabid right wing. And this is the wing he has assiduously cultivated his whole political life.
The other NYRB article of interest is by Christopher Benfry: Mitt, We Hardly Knew Ye!
We’re feeling vulnerable and surly these days in western Massachusetts, as the leaves turn yellow, the Red Sox fade, and winter looms. Our corridor of New England along the Connecticut River endured, during the summer months, a ruinous tornado in Springfield, an earthquake, of all things, and Hurricane Irene, which knocked out roads and historic covered bridges in our hill towns and across neighboring Vermont, and left a lot of people homeless and adrift. It’s our Katrina moment, we sometimes think, with slightly grandiose self-pity, as Republicans in Congress demand budget cuts if FEMA is to pay for disaster relief in the blue states.
We don’t see much of Mitt Romney, our ex-governor, in these troubled times. Then again, we never did. Our most indelible memories are of Mitt leaving—“the sight of Mitt’s back,” as a friend of mine put it, as he went off to lay the groundwork for yet another campaign. Mitt ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1994, lost, and left the state to salvage the Salt Lake City Olympics. When he returned to run for governor in 2002, he had to go to court to prove that he sort of lived in Belmont, outside Boston. Then, after a couple of years in the state house, he left again to campaign for the presidency, spending two thirds of his time out of state in 2006. Mitt has sold his house in Belmont and now lives in the important primary state of New Hampshire (at his estate on Lake Winnipesaukee) or San Diego or maybe Utah—anywhere but Massachusetts.
In the Republican debates, Mitt pretends that his ties to Massachusetts are tenuous. Mitt’s greatest achievement as governor, the Massachusetts health care system (which passed with Ted Kennedy’s support and two dissenting votes in the state legislature), is now his greatest liability among Republicans, who see it as a stalking horse for Obamacare. Mitt now claims it was right for our quirky state but not for the nation. He has yet to explain why.
When Mitt trumpets his experience in American business, he rarely mentions that Bain, the consulting and investment conglomerate in which he amassed his $200 million fortune, is a Boston firm.
And so on…Romney used our state as a springboard and then denied even knowing us.
I’ll end there for today. What are you reading and blogging about?
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