Monthly Archives: April 2013
Chicago April 30, 2013 - Terrorism is a word that evokes all kinds of imagery, but struggles for a definition. Compared to plain vanilla crime, there’s a different urgency when dealing with terrorism. It justifies a response, from our government, far beyond anything we would accept if we were dealing with plain vanilla crime, or violence.
But what in the world is terrorism? Dzokhar Tsarnaev has been accused of setting off two bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing three. In the ensuing hunt, a fourth person was killed, along with Dzokhar’s brother. Over 100 people were injured. This is terrorism.
Adam Lanza walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School armed to the teeth, and killed twenty-six people, including 20 children. The incident has been called “mass murder.” But it is not terrorism. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) never suggested that people of Lanza’s race or religion ought to be subjected to additional scrutiny, based upon their ties to terrorism.
At approximately 10:30 pm on Thursday, April 18, 2013, an MIT police officer, Sean Collier, age 27, was shot and killed on campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while responding to a disturbance. Police believe the Boston Bombing suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shot the officer five times to get his gun because they only had one gun. It is unclear how many bullets were in Officer Collier’s gun or why the brothers thought the gun would be so valuable they would shoot the officer five times for it and call attention to themselves before their whereabouts were known by police. In the end, the brothers failed to remove the officer’s gun from his holster–their horrendous crime was in vain. Mystery continues to surround the death of the MIT officer, however, and the Middlesex DA released today a request for witnesses to the crime.
The first responder to the MIT officer’s call for backup, Officer Collier’s friend and former classmate, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police Officer Richard Donohue, might have been the only one in a position to illuminate the events as they unfolded in Cambridge that night. By a tragic coincidence, however, Officer Donohue was the only officer to be wounded in
CNN reported last Thursday night that the police had taken two men into custody following a car chase possibly in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing and the killing of a police officer at MIT. During the report, they showed footage shot by CNN of one of the suspects, handcuffed and naked, being walked by police to a police cruiser.
The top video below shows the CNN footage. This was aired Thursday night before the early Friday morning shootout that killed Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Who is the naked man in custody? Is it Tamerlan Tsarnaev? If not, who is he and why isn’t there an official explanation of the arrest? If it is Tsarnaev, why did authorities let him go then engage him in a gunfight?
The critical question is, “Is the naked man Tamerlan Tsarnaev?” Judge for yourself. Before you play the video, compare its frozen image of the naked man with the three still photos of Tamerlan Tsarnaev below it. (If you want to get back to that frozen image after you play the video, refresh this page.)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul released the following statement this evening following erroneous reports of a change in his position on the use of domestic drones.
“My comments last night left the mistaken impression that my position on drones had changed.
“Let me be clear: it has not. Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations. They only may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing, imminent threat. I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster.
“Additionally, surveillance drones should only be used with warrants and specific targets.
“Fighting terrorism and capturing terrorists must be done while preserving our constitutional protections. This was demonstrated last week in Boston. As we all seek to prevent future tragedies, we must continue to bear this in mind.”
TAMPA, April 22, 2013 – Predictably, neoconservative politicians have already called for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant, meaning that he would not enjoy the constitutional protections afforded criminal defendants in civilian courts. Pundits and blog commenters have echoed the sentiment that “terrorists don’t deserve due process” or other constitutional protections. According to this argument, they forfeited them when they decided to wage war against Americans.
This begs an obvious question. How do we know Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed the crime and therefore doesn’t deserve due process, when due process is the means by which we make that determination?
Neoconservative logic isn’t much better than Sir Bedevere’s in the witch scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Sadly, many Americans are acting every bit the mob depicted in that satire.
Chicago April 18, 2013 – The story to come out of Boston is still in flux, and we are only now putting together the pieces of what happened in the aftermath of that terrible event. It will take much longer to piece together what preceded it. But we now know that within several hours of the attack, law enforcement had named a “person of interest” (an amorphous word that allows media and law enforcement alike to get around calling someone a “suspect” when there is a dearth of evidence against him): a 20-year-old Saudi Arabian student who was here on a student visa. Lest anyone think he was merely profiled for being Saudi Arabian, he was behaving suspiciously, according to witnesses: when the bomb went off, he ran away from it. It did not take long to clear him of any wrongdoing. But first, law enforcement had to ransack his apartment in Revere, Mass., and interrogate his roommate for several hours.
Within 48 hours of the Boston Marathon bombing, two other communities of laymen were conducting their own investigations. The first, Reddit.com, produced 14 threads (each with thousands of comments) over the course of two days. Many of those threads were dedicated to disseminating information about the bombing, and about relief efforts. But some of the comments were directed towards aggregating information, any information, that would become useful in identifying the perpetrator. Soon, the site was inundated with videos and photographs of the scene in the lead-up to the bombing, and in the moments thereafter. When law enforcement revealed that the bomb was likely transported in a black backpack, with silver reflective strips, the pictures were combed for information, in a project dubbed “Where’s Waldo?” by reddit moderators.
In August 2011, when I first read The Washington Times article, “Was CIA behind Operation Fast & Furious?,” by Robert Farago and Ralph Dixon, I was waiting on the edge of my seat for the scandal to ignite in the media, at least on the right. From arming the Sinaloa drug cartel, to laundering money for them and allowing their drugs in the country, to attempting a cover-up, the Obama administration was overseeing nefarious activity with all the makings of an Iran-Contra and Watergate combined. When the scandal failed to explode, I started to smell a rat. At first I figured the Republicans were neutered because the roots of the overarching Project Gunrunner reached back into the Bush Administration, but when the media, particularly The Wall Street Journal and FOX News, failed adequately to elucidate the clear distinctions between Bush’s operations and Obama’s and failed to expose Operation Fast & Furious for all that it was, I started to believe the fix was in.
As I saw Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder lie to the Senate then lie about lying then get caught in both lies, I waited avidly for The Journal to show up at my doorstep so I could see the in-your-face lambasting Holder so richly deserved. I would rip open the paper and turn page after page looking for The Big Story only to find a single paragraph buried deep or, more often, nothing at all. Likewise my daily searches of FOX.com resulted in nothing, or very little, on Operation Fast & Furious.
TAMPA, April 16, 2013 – Conservative critics immediately criticized President Obama’s initial statement about the Boston Marathon bombing because he did not classify the crime an act of terrorism.
“We still don’t know who did this or why, and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But, make no mistake; we will get to the bottom of this,” said the president.
This libertarian doesn’t get to say this very often about any president, but Obama was right. The bombing was a heinous crime, but there is no way to know if this was an act of terrorism until it is determined who perpetrated it and, more importantly, why. That’s because a mass murder is not necessarily an act of terrorism, unless it is carried out for a political purpose. According to Title 22, Chapter 38 of the United States Code,
“…the term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;”
“Some argue with evidence that our drug laws are biased-that they are the new Jim Crow.
But to simply be against them for that reason misses a larger point. They are unfair to EVERYONE, largely because of the one size fits all federal mandatory sentences. Our federal mandatory minimum sentences are simply heavy-handed and arbitrary. They can affect anyone at any time, though they disproportionately affect those without the means to fight them. We should stand and loudly proclaim enough is enough. We should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence. That’s why I have introduced a bill to repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences. We should not have drug laws or a court system that disproportionately punishes the black community.” Senator Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul spoke at the predominantly black Howard University. This is not exactly like Marco Polo discovering China yet in terms of naked symbolism it was significant. Senator Paul’s actions in going to Howard are most significant considering that Senator Paul is a Republican, but less so given the Senator’s brand of libertarian inspired conservatism. In point of fact, there is more in common between liberals, civil libertarians and libertarians than between either of these groups and some elements in the current GOP. The liberty movement can and should embrace civil libertarianism and parts of liberalism because if it does so, it has a much broader demographic appeal than it may yet realize. It is possible to have libertarian tendencies and embrace the civil rights acts because they are an important arena in which the federal government protects the civil liberties of all Americans.
Front and center on the opinion page of The Wall Street Journal yesterday was an article titled “A Conservative Case for Gay Marriage” and opposite was a full-page article titled “Evangelicals in Push for Immigration Overhaul.” Both articles make great points and are breaths of fresh air from the right, but the timing of this one-eighty makes me like the neo-conservative machine less not more.
A year ago, “defense of marriage” and stopping the “flow of illegals” were sold as inviolable conservative “core principles” by Republican politicians and the media who serve them. These were issues the likes of Karl Rove and Paul Ryan solemnly if not rabidly defended, and they were issues used against traditional conservatives and libertarians like Ron Paul. As any traditional conservative can tell you, however, these are not “core principles” of conservatism–not even neo-conservatism! These issues were intentionally manufactured to polarize voters on a single issue that would get their votes despite being betrayed by the Republican Party on the truly universal conservative principle: fiscal restraint.